*An LAPD officer who was caught on video viciously beating an unarmed homeless man suspected of trespassing repeatedly in Boyle Heights has been charged with assault, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday.
Officer Frank Hernandez can be seen in police body-cam footage punching Richard Castillo, who does not appear to be fighting back. At one point, Hernandez stops the beating to have a conversation with the other officer on the scene before he resumes attacking the victim.
Hernandez, 49, now faces one felony count of assault under color of authority, KTLA reports.
“This is a disturbing case of the illegal use of force at the hands of a police officer,” District Attorney Jackie Lacey said in a news release. “In this case, we believe the force was neither legally necessary nor reasonable.”
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The incident occurred on April 27, when Hernandez and his partner responded to a call about a trespasser sleeping in a tent on a vacant lot of a private property.
Audio captured by Hernandez’s partner’s body camera shows Castillo’s refusal to leave the area. Hernandez attempts to arrest him and the two men begin to struggle it out.
“The use of force is justified because the officer believed he was under attack from the suspect… even though you might think the suspect wasn’t fighting back at that time, he wasn’t complying either,” LAPD attorney David Winslow said.
Castillo was arrested but released and wasn’t charged.
Internal Affairs launched a formal investigation due to the “serious nature of the alleged misconduct.”
In the news release announcing the charges, officials said Hernandez “illegally” punched the unarmed man “more than a dozen times in the head, neck and body.”
Hernandez has been with the department for more than 20 years and has reportedly been involved in several officer-involved shootings, the Los Angeles Times reports.
“The Department has taken this matter very seriously from day-one and he will be held accountable for his actions,” Chief Michel Moore said in a statement.