Los Angeles, CA – A Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officer who became a media sensation for her competitive shooting skills has become the focus of Black Lives Matter protests after she fatally shot a suicidal man lunging toward her with a box cutter.
LAPD Officer Toni McBride became a social media influencer after she entered the police academy in 2017 and became “top shot” in her class, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The firearms catalog “The Blue Press” put the rookie officer on its cover and she later joined the team of Taran Tactical Innovations where she participated in filming videos with gun-toting models and actresses shooting against a stopwatch.
Officer McBride, 23, made appearances with Keanu Reeves and other celebrities and athletes, and was deemed “#HottestCopEver” by a legion of social media fanboys, the Los Angeles Times reported.
It was a dream-come-true for the little girl who grew up wanting to become a police officer and played dress up in her father’s uniforms.
Her father, Jamie McBride, was an LAPD patrol officer before he became one of nine directors of the police department’s labor union.
In recent weeks, Officer McBride’s celebrity and her father’s status have both been used against her after she was involved in an officer-involved shooting, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The incident occurred on April 22 when officers responded to the scene of a five-car crash at the intersection of 32nd and San Pedro Streets after several people called 911 and reported that the driver who had caused the pileup was trying to stab himself, KNBC reported.
Bodycam video from the scene showed 38-year-old Daniel Hernandez armed with a box cutter and walking toward Officer McBride ordering the suspect.
The video showed Officer McBride requested backup and asked about the availability of less-lethal weapons as she tried to stop Hernandez with commands.
Officer McBride repeatedly ordered Hernandez to stay where he was and drop the knife, but he ignored her.
Instead, the video showed he advanced toward the officer and she opened fire.
Officer McBride shot Hernandez two times and he dropped to his knees on the pavement.
The video showed Hernandez quickly pushed himself back up again.
Officer McBride shot four more times with short pauses between each shot as Hernandez actively worked to stand back up.
He went to the pavement but started to roll over and get up again so Officer McBride fired two more rounds.
All of her shots struck Hernandez, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The autopsy determined that Hernandez was on methamphetamine and had stabbed his arms in multiple places before the confrontation with Officer McBride.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office is investigating the officer-involved shooting, KNBC reported.
LAPD’s Force Investigation Unit is also reviewing the incident to determine if Officer McBride’s actions that day violated any department policies.
The findings of the internal investigation will be sent to the police chief and a civilian review panel who will ultimately determine the officer’s fate, KNBC reported.
In the meantime, Officer McBride was returned without fanfare to regular patrol duty in the Newton district, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Then 46-year-old George Floyd died while he was being arrested by the Minneapolis police on May 25, sparking a nationwide series of protests and riots about police brutality.
Hernandez’s death became a rally cry for Black Lives Matter protesters in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Times reported.
In June, Hernandez’s 14-year-old daughter filed a federal civil rights lawsuit that alleged the shooting wasn’t justified and claimed Officer McBride had homicidal tendencies, KNBC reported.
Narine Mkrtchyan, the attorney who filed the lawsuit, said that Officer McBride was an inexperienced officer who quickly resorted to lethal force because of her competitive shooting experience.
The suit accused LAPD and the city of “the use of unnecessary, unreasonable and deadly force by…assigning defendant McBride, among others, whom LAPD knew, or who reasonably should have known, to have reckless violent and homicidal propensities to duties which enable such deputies to continue to use unnecessary force,” according to KNBC.
The attorney pointed to the videos all over social media of Officer McBride shooting off-duty against the clock as evidence the officer was a killer.
“That was very shocking to me,” Mkrtchyan said. “I’ve never seen a police officer enjoying shooting to that degree and joking about it.”
— 5.11 Tactical (@511Tactical) September 17, 2019
It should be noted that many police officers nationwide shoot competitively and for fun off-duty.
George Gascon, a candidate for Los Angeles County district attorney, has called for the California attorney general to step into the investigation of the officer-involved shooting, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Gascon and the Hernandez family have complained the investigation will be unfairly compromised because of Officer McBride’s father’s influential position.
The elder Officer McBride was involved in six shootings in the first 11 years he spent on LAPD, the Los Angeles Times reported.
But his daughter’s supporters said her father’s LAPD history and current position shouldn’t be held against her.
Ed Obayashi, a police use-of-force expert, called the Hernandez incident “a clear-cut justified shooting,” the Los Angeles Times reported.
“There is absolutely no doubt in my mind this officer was facing an immediate threat to her life,” Obayashi said after watching the bodycam video.
Hernandez’s family has said they think Officer McBride could have done more to de-escalate the situation before firing her weapon and said that she behaved like the competitive shooter she was in the videos, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“She loves to shoot all these things as fast as she can,” Arnoldo Casillas, one of the attorneys for the Hernandez family, said. “That certainly is in stark contrast to the measured, cautious police officer, exhibiting a reverence for life. This isn’t a movie.”