Community members in Westlake, near downtown Los Angeles expressed fierce disillusionment with police in a public meeting yesterday.
The public meeting was called in the wake of public demonstrations over the past two days. The demontrations stem from the police shooting of Manuel Jamines, 37, on Sunday afternoon.
From police reports, an intoxicated Jamines threatened to stab a pregnant woman with a bloody 6-inch switchblade. The origin of the blood is unclear and under investigation.
Police officers on bicycles were flagged down by passerby to intervene. Upon arrival, they ordered Jamines in English and Spanish to drop the knife.
However, according to family members, Jamines did not speak fluent English or Spanish. Jamines spoke K'iche', a language of indigenous people in Guatemala.
LAPD officials claimed that while in confrontation Jamines lunged forward with his knife over his head to attack them.
Officer Frank Hernandez shot Jamines twice in the head. The confrontation lasted all but 40 seconds from first contact to shooting.
According to Police Chief Charlie Beck, Hernandez is "assigned to home" during investigation and "will not be back in the street," implying that he was on administrative leave. One member of the audience jeered firing back "What, is he on vacation?"
Hernandez, a 13-year veteran of the force, has had a marked reputation in the community. He has been engaged in two prior use-of-lethal force incidents, both of which were in response to attacks. However, according to community members, he was known to regularly "abuse vendors."
Eyewitnesses have said that the police had the capacity to disarm, which would render the use of lethal force unnecessary. Some opined that a TASER gun or Pepper Spray would have been more appropriate.
Beck had previously mentioned that "police officers on bicycles did not carry the weapons that would have allowed Jamines to be subdued without force."
In this meeting, he mentioned that cops "were not trained to take a knife away." This earned jeers and a remark from an audience member "You are trained to kill, but not trained to remove a knife."
Beck promised a "transparent investigation." He maintained that the latest incident was no sign of a return to "old times", a reference to widespread corruption in the department's Rampart division throughout the 1990s.
Given roughly one to five minutes each to speak, community residents vented frustrations about policing culture in the Westlake area. Frequent in the two-hour meeting were interruptions of Chief Beck's comments. Jeers and chants of "asesino", "justicia", and "el pueblo unido jamas sera vencido" were frequent after comments made by Beck and others in the community who supported the police decision.
Many residents brought skepticism about the possibility of a fair, transparent investigation. They felt that police were not there to protect the community. Several residents brought up their personal experiences with police and how their concerns were immediately dismissed by the department.
A Loyola Law School student thought that the killing could have been reflective of an unwritten LAPD policy of "No Human Involved" or NHI. The term informally was allegedly used by some divisions of the Los Angeles Police Department in the 1980s to refer signal for other police to arrive late to a crime scene because "no human was involved."
Members represented an array of demographics from day laborers, mothers, law students, and representatives from organizations.
The meeting adjourned abruptly as attention shifted to a demonstration on nearby streets.
One UCLA student claimed that the meeting still failed to give the community a voice.
"Fourty minutes of public comments is not enough to address the concerns of a big community. The police only answered questions that were convenient to answer."