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Two Brown Men With the Same Name Shot Eight Days Apart Throws a Spotlight on the Prevalence of Latinos Killed by L.A. Police

[dropcap size=big]L[/dropcap]aw enforcement shootings in L.A. are so common that two people with the same exact name—Daniel Hernandez—were killed just days apart from one another in April of this year leading to confusion amongst community members and media outlets.

In a city where people that identify as Latino represent roughly half of the population and at a time when other Daniel Hernandezes have been pushed into the public spotlight, Daniel Hernandez is one of the most common names amongst Angelenos, Americans, and victims of police violence. (Full disclosure: It is also the name of L.A. Taco’s former Editor, who now works at LA Times.) 

The April shootings—which happened a week apart and less than a mile from one another—highlight the prevalence of police violence that Latinos face in Los Angeles as well as the frequent police shootings at the LAPD Newton Division.

The LAPD categorizes Latinx people as “Latino” while other departments use “Hispanic.” 

“It’s a confusion about whether we’re a race or whether we’re an ethnicity, some police departments will categorize Latinx as a race and some with categorize Latinx as an ethnicity,” Eddie Portillos, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs, explained during a conversation on The Takeaway with L.A. Taco's Director of Partnerships Memo Torres and host Tanzina Vega.

Killed between April 22, 2020, and April 30, 2020, both Hernandezes were fatally shot by patrol officers with the LAPD Newton Division. 

According to the LAPD’s website, since 2019 there have been 7 ‘use-of-force incidents’ in the Newton Division, which can include everything from an injury to a police shooting, but for decades the division of the LAPD has been associated with violence.

The Newton Division infamously coined the nickname “Shootin’ Newton” as a way to describe the neighborhood that they policed. Both the 1965 and 1992 uprisings fell under the jurisdiction of the Newton Division. The term “Shootin’ Newton” has since been used by organizers to describe the frequent amount of police shootings in the neighborhood as well. An L.A. Times report found that 465 people that were identified as Latino have been shot by law enforcement in L.A. County since the year 2000, or 53 percent of all shootings.

Two of those shootings happened within a span of a week in April.

Daniel Hernandez

On April 22, 2020, at around 5:30 PM, multiple LAPD officers with the Newton Division responded to a car accident involving several vehicles. According to 911 calls released by the LAPD, the man who allegedly initiated the crash had an object described as a knife by witnesses and was attempting to cut himself.

Body-worn camera footage released by the LAPD shows LAPD officer Toni McBride arriving at the scene.

After jumping out of the passenger side of the patrol car, McBride quickly draws her gun, as the body-worn camera audio kicks in and a witness tells McBride that there’s a man with a knife. McBride responds, “Why does he want to hurt himself?” Before she calls for “back-up.” Later Hernandez emerges from behind a wrecked black truck. Hernandez approaches McBride from over 15 feet away with his hands to his side and an alleged ‘box cutter’ in his left hand as McBride orders Hernandez to “drop the knife” and dozens of people watch in the background.

As Hernandez approaches the patrol car and slowly begins to lift his arms, McBride shoots in the direction of the crowd and Hernandez at least 5 times. Hernandez struggles to stand as he’s struck by bullets and eventually hits the ground. After spending over two minutes devising a plan to handcuff a lifeless looking body, Hernandez is finally taken into custody. A box cutter knife was recovered on the scene, according to the LAPD. “My brother’s death was live-streamed on social media. That’s how we found out,” Marina Vergara, Hernandez's sister, told Spectrum News. “The entire family is deeply saddened, shocked, and traumatized,” Vergara told L.A. Taco.

The family of Daniel Hernandez are demanding more transparency from the LAPD. It took the department weeks to publicly identify Hernandez, leading to confusion when another man was fatally shot on April 30 with seemingly the same name.

Marina remembers her brother as being a loving father to his only daughter, an L.A. sports fanatic, and a bit of a momma’s boy. “His mother was the world to Danny.”

According to Vergara, Hernandez was already traumatized by police before he was killed in April by LAPD. Criminal records and a lawsuit confirm that in August of 2009, Daniel Hernandez and his brothers Javier and Andres were drinking beer in their front yard when LAPD officers Wampler and Garcia rolled up due to a car being double-parked.

Ultimately the incident led to Daniel Hernandez being violently pepper-sprayed and allegedly almost drowned in a shallow kids pool, while Wampler and Garcia beat him up. Andres interfered, fearing that the police officers might kill his brother and ended up spending three years in prison for attempting to help his brother through the police altercation.

“Both Danny and Andy were traumatized and harmed from that experience,” Vergara told L.A. Taco.

Five years later, LAPD officer Sharlton Wampler killed Ezell Ford in South L.A. “The entire community knows who the dirty cops are at Shootin’ Newton.” According to Vergara, Sharlton Wampler is one of them. The family of Daniel Hernandez are demanding more transparency from the LAPD. It took the department weeks to publicly identify Hernandez, leading to confusion when another man was fatally shot on April 30 with seemingly the same name.

Until recently, the space reserved for names on the section of the LAPD website where they list all ‘officer-involved shootings’ and ‘critical incidents’, contained the letters “UNK” for “unknown” instead of Daniel Hernandez.

They also want “Toni McBride terminated from LAPD and prosecuted for excessive force and wrongful death.”

“Shootin’ Newton”

In the wake of Hernandez’s death, community members resurfaced a December 2019 Instagram video of LAPD officer Toni McBride at Taran Tactical Innovations, a Simi Valley-based online gun shop and training range, with actor Keanu Reeves.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

You can actually hear Taran Weinstein in the back ground talking to someone he paid 90k a year for #shotshow2020

A post shared by Brett (@alexkrycek_) on Jan 21, 2020 at 6:43am PST

//www.instagram.com/embed.js

*Viewer discretion is advised.

A long list of celebrities have trained with Taran Tactical including academy award winner Halle Berry, Michael B. Jordan, Michelle Rodriguez, and Taraji P. Henson. The owner, Taran Butler, is a champion competitive shooter as well as a “celebrity gun trainer.” The eccentric gun enthusiast has also been accused of sexual harassment after a 2019 video surfaced of Butler pressuring a reported employee to show him her vagina.

Butler is known for employing, documenting, and collaborating with models, influencers, and actors who tend to be women. In a recent L.A. Magazine profile, Butler said, “That’s what I’m known for, beautiful girls who shoot as good as they look.”

In the Instagram video of [Toni] McBride and [Keanu] Reeves—which was recorded by Butler—McBride is seen joking about the “Shootin’ Newton” reference with Reeves.

For her most recent birthday in 2019, Butler gifted McBride a multi-thousand dollar Glock 17L Combat Master, according to a May 2020 profile in L.A. Magazine. The pistol came engraved with her name and clover, which McBride attributed to her Irish heritage but is also coincidentally similar to the “Lucky 13” emblem associated with the Newton Division of the LAPD.

In the Instagram video of McBride and Reeves—which was recorded by Butler—McBride is seen joking about the “Shootin’ Newton” reference with Reeves. “LAPD cop, works South Central Newton Division,” Butler introduces the two from behind the camera as McBride shakes hands with the John Wick star. “That’s right,” McBride says nervously before Reeves interrupts and loudly shouts “Shooting Newton!”

McBride responds by saying “Ayyy, he knows,” before breaking into the kind of chant you would hear at a sporting event when a brief phrase is shouted followed by five claps. “Shoot-in New-ton,” (clap, clap, clap-clap-clap) McBride says enthusiastically while she laughs and Reeves repeats the phrase.

Then Butler breaks the news to Reeves that McBride still has not seen ‘John Wick’ two or three yet, a film franchise based on the classic ‘ex-hitman seeks justice’ plot.

She glorifies ‘Shootin Newton’ and has a gangster mentality about policing,” Vergara told L.A. Taco.

//www.instagram.com/embed.js

While most LAPD officers' marksman skills are tested on a monthly basis in order to maintain their status as police officers, additionally, McBride is also a competitive shooter. We were appalled to learn that Toni McBride was a competitive shooter, we were disgusted to see videos of her touting assault weapons and enjoying breaking her own speed target shooting records.”

In November 2019, Taran Tactical, posted a video of McBride completing her first shooting competition. In the video with Reeves, McBride fires off over 30 rounds in less than 30 seconds at various targets, while Reeves observes. In another video from 2019, Taran Butler gifts McBride her Glock 17L Combat Master, “I’m literally dying over this. [The] best part, it has my name, Toni McBride, with a clover,” McBride rejoices.

//www.instagram.com/embed.js

In less than five years, Toni McBride—the daughter of ex-cop and current board member of the Los Angeles Police Protective League Jamie McBride—has quickly risen the ranks to go from being a reserve officer to fatally shooting Daniel Hernandez on April 22.

“The LAPPL has funded the campaign of Jackie Lacey and other City Hall politicians. Jackie Lacey will not bite the hand that feeds her. We don’t believe a police department should be investigating themselves,” Vergara told L.A. Taco. ‘Use-of-force’ runs in the family. According to an L.A. Times 2004 review, Toni’s father, Jamie McBride, was involved in many more shootings, “Than the vast majority of officers.” The elder McBride cites the article in his IMDB profile, according to the L.A. Times.

The younger McBride joined the LAPD in 2016 and became the first and youngest woman to complete the level 2 reserve academy, receiving “top shot” in her class.

In 2017 she completed the full-time LAPD academy and was again the youngest in her class and received “top shot,” according to a Facebook post by Taran Tactical. From there McBride went to Rampart Division as a patrol officer before landing at Newton Division.

In April 2020, she fatally shot Daniel Hernandez. According to Vergara, McBride is still on patrol.

Daniel Hernandez Bravo

Eight days after McBride fatally shot Daniel Hernandez, Newton Division patrol officers Luke Coyle and Kevin Ruiz were involved in a police shooting near 23rd and Wall Streets involving a 28-year-old man that police identified as Daniel Hernandez (the L.A. County Coroner and family have identified the 28-year-old man as Daniel Hernandez Bravo but the LAPD continues to identify the man as Daniel Hernandez.) The April 22 and April 30 shootings happened less than a mile apart from one another.

All told it took less than 30 seconds after the car fled in reverse for officers Coyle and Ruiz to fatally shoot Hernandez. 

Similarly to the police shooting that happened on April 22, the April 30 incident also involved a car crash according to the LAPD. At around 9:40 PM, in-car video footage from a patrol unit shows officers turning the corner of 23rd and Wall Street. The patrol unit slows down and comes to a stop after noticing two double-parked cars with their lights on.

The patrol unit flashes a spotlight into the cars before one of the cars takes off in reverse down Wall Street. After darting halfway down the street, the suspects’ rear end collides with a parked car before they take off in drive, down an alley.

The car comes to a stop in the alley at which point three people, including 28-year-old Daniel Hernandez, jump out of the car and start running. According to the LAPD and body-worn video footage, Hernandez ran in the direction of the officers and produced an alleged handgun. Body-worn footage shows what the LAPD alleges to be a handgun, slip out of Hernandez’s hand or person as he’s running away from the officers. Hernandez appears to recover the alleged handgun as he’s hit with gunfire from Coyle and Ruiz as he falls to the ground.

All told it took less than 30 seconds after the car fled in reverse for officers Coyle and Ruiz to fatally shoot Hernandez. 

Both Coyle and Ruiz were replaced by other officers to take Hernandez into custody and similarly to the April 22 shooting, it took the LAPD several minutes to handcuff a lifeless looking body. While both of the victims shot on April 22 and April 30 shared a name in common, there is no apparent connection between the two victims beyond that.

Both shootings however connect to the larger conversation that’s going on right now that asks, “Why do we need police in the first place?” 

Both shootings however connect to the larger conversation that’s going on right now that asks, “Why do we need police in the first place?” 

Since May 25, thousands of people have hit the streets of  Los Angeles to put pressure on city leaders to ‘defund the police.’ Despite historically low crime levels, the LAPD receives over 3 billion dollars annually and this year, Mayor Garcetti attempted to increase their budget. The April shootings are just two of the most recent examples of police calls that begin as service calls or non-violent interactions and end with someone being shot. Community members aligned with the People’s Budget are asking for social workers and trained medical professionals to address most service calls.

On June 17, 2020, speaking with Larry Mantle on KPCC’s Air Talk, Chief Michel Moore said, “I’m 100 percent” behind a proposal before the city council to stop using police in non-violent situations when no crime is being committed.”

Since making their demands, both the LAPD and the police union have expressed interest in removing police from non-violent situations when no crime is being committed, the Mayor and city council have also agreed to reallocate city funds to communities of color, but some community members remain skeptical.

Editors notes:

38-year-old Daniel Hernandez was fatally shot by LAPD officer Toni McBride on 4/22/2020.

28-year-old Daniel Hernandez Bravo was fatally shot by LAPD officers Luke Coyle and Kevin Ruiz on 4/30/2020. 

Memo Torres contributed to this report. 

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