- Associated Press - Thursday, September 9, 2010

LOS ANGELES | The police officer who fatally shot a knife-wielding man whose death has sparked three days of violent protests in Los Angeles had been involved in two previous shootings while on duty, according to a media report.

The Los Angeles Times report came as hundreds of people returned to the streets for a third night of protests over the fatal shooting of Manuel Jamines, 37, sporadically throwing rocks and bottles at officers and setting scattered rubbish fires.

On Wednesday evening, police Chief Charlie Beck faced an angry crowd at a community meeting intended to quell the violence.

Citing police officials and records, the Times said that Officer Frank Hernandez, a 13-year department veteran, shot a female robbery suspect in 1999 when the woman allegedly pointed a handgun at Officer Hernandez and his partner and refused orders to drop the weapon. Her injury was not life-threatening.

In 2008, the Times reported, Officer Hernandez shot an 18-year-old assault suspect who tried to flee, then pointed a gun at Officer Hernandez and another officer.

Chief Beck voiced support for Officer Hernandez in an interview with the Times. Citing privacy laws, Chief Beck would not discuss the past shootings. He told the Times that Officer Hernandez’s performance should not come under suspicion because of previous shootings.

At the community meeting, a crowd of more than 300 packed a school in the Westlake neighborhood where Mr. Jamines was fatally shot Sunday by Officer Hernandez after he allegedly lunged toward the officer with a knife after threatening two women.

The crowd jeered Chief Beck when he defended officers by reading a witness account of how Mr. Jamines threatened her.

Chief Beck said the witness, a neighborhood resident who was not named, told three bicycle officers that a man with blood on his hands tried to stab her and a pregnant woman next to her.

As the woman ran away, she heard the three officers telling the suspect to drop the knife, then she heard three or four shots, turned around and saw Mr. Jamines on the sidewalk, Chief Beck said.

“She referred to the officers as her angels who had descended from heaven to save her life and that of the pregnant lady,” Chief Beck said.

The crowd exploded when they heard the witness’s account. One man in the audience called out that the story sounded like it was made up in Hollywood.

Chief Beck and city officials scheduled the meeting to counter rumors and reach out to residents of the neighborhood just west of downtown where Mr. Jamines was shot.

Sunday’s killing turned into a rallying point as community members, aided by outsiders, took to the streets three consecutive nights and used the death to claim past injustices and vent ongoing frustrations.

Police have defended the killing and said they’ve been taken aback by the high emotions after what looked like a clear-cut case of justifiable use of force. Each year, the LAPD is involved in up to about 40 shootings; those that typically cause controversy involve unarmed or surrendered suspects.