FOX 11 Investigates: Blind Justice
LOS ANGELES, CA (FOX 11) - A routine police traffic stop ends with a young mother blinded. It was a life-changing moment caught on police dash camera video. FOX 11 News has obtained the video shot that night by the camera on-board the Beaumont, California, police squad car in 2012. It has never been seen publicly, until now.
Monique Hernandez was stopped on suspicion of drunk driving. Officer Enoch Clark attempted to handcuff her, forcing her hands behind her back and bending her over the hood of the car. On the dash camera video, you can hear officer Clark repeatedly telling Hernandez to stop resisting, and you hear Hernandez insist she is not. Clark warns her that if she doesn't stop resisting, he will use JPX pepper spray on her. Then, in a flash, he fires the pepper spray weapon at point blank toward her temple. The high-powered stream of chemicals explodes in her face, blinding her for life.
Officer Clark, a veteran police officer, was fired from his job and charged with assault and battery. His trial ended in a hung jury, which voted ten-to-two in favor of a "guilty" verdict. Prosecutors decided to retry him. Now, three-and-a-half years after the incident, the case in the pre-trial stage. Clark has never said why he used the pepper spray that night; he didn't testify at his first trial.
His attorney gave FOX 11 News a statement, saying: "His (Clark's) only goal was to get her into custody as quickly and as safely as possible. Clark would never have used the JPX pepper device in her knew, or had any reason to know, that its use would have caused any injury, let alone loss of her sight." Clark's attorney blamed poor training and no clear instructions on how to use the pepper spray gun. However, the instructions FOX 11 News reviewed clearly state it should be used from a minimum of five feet away. In Hernandez's incident, the JPX was used at point-blank range.
As for Hernandez, now 34, she was never charged with a crime that night. She sued the city of Beaumont and settled her case for $18 million. Hernandez tells us that the money means she never has to worry about where rent will come from and providing for her children. However, she told our Phil Shuman that she doesn't get to fully enjoy her life, despite the money. She said she would give the money back in a minute, if it meant she could see again.
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