LOS ANGELES – The police officer who shot and killed a Guatemalan immigrant who authorities said was threatening people with a knife is being sued by a man claiming he was unlawfully shot by the officer in 2008.
Joseph Wolf, who was 19 at the time of the incident, said in the civil rights and negligence lawsuit that Officer Frank Hernandez shot him in the leg then made up allegations to justify the shooting.
Hernandez is currently on administrative leave following Sunday's shooting of Manuel Jaminez. Several witnesses told police Jaminez was drunk, carrying a knife and threatening passers-by, though one woman has disputed the account and said Jaminez was unarmed.
In Wolf's lawsuit, which was first reported by the Los Angeles Times on Friday, he said he was awakened by a helicopter circling overhead the morning of Dec. 12, 2008, and went outside to investigate.
It was cold, so Wolf went back into his house to get a sweat shirt. When he came out again, Hernandez shot him in he leg and claimed Wolf had been carrying a weapon, the lawsuit states.
Wolf's attorney, Mark Geragos, said Wolf was shot in the back of the leg and his client still walks with a limp. Officers never found a weapon on Wolf but later discovered a BB gun in a drawer in Wolf's house.
"The whole thing was ludicrous," Geragos said, noting the case against Wolf was dismissed.
Hernandez was found by police officials and the agency's oversight board to have acted within the department's policies on the use of deadly force in the 2008 case.
The city attorney's office declined to comment on the case, which is pending in federal court. The lawsuit names Hernandez and five other police officials.
Also Friday, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said he stood by remarks he made a day earlier that he believed the officers in the Jaminez shooting were heroes and independent investigations would show they acted properly.
James Lafferty, an attorney with the National Lawyers Guild, said the mayor had prejudged the outcome of the investigation into the shooting.
Lafferty acknowledged some community members also have prejudged the case by calling police Chief Charlie Beck a "murderer." However, Lafferty said, officials should be held to a higher standard.