Police: Woman seen in racist rants at Torrance park charged in previous battery

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Lena Hernandez is seen in a still from cellphone video obtained by KTLA.

Lena Hernandez is seen in a still from cellphone video obtained by KTLA.

A woman whose caught-on-video racist tirades at a Torrance park made international headlines last month was charged Thursday in a separate incident from last October, officials said.

A criminal complaint filed by the Torrance City Attorney’s Office charges retired social worker Lena Hernandez, 54, with misdemeanor battery in an Oct. 11 incident at the Del Amo Fashion Center, according to Torrance police.

Police Chief Eve Berg previously said the Long Beach resident was suspected of “brutally assaulting” a custodian and a bystander who tried to help the victim.

After Hernandez was shown in a series of widely broadcast videos this month, Kayceelyn Salminoa said she recognized Hernandez as the woman who attacked her in a public restroom last October.

“That’s a voice you don’t forget. That’s a face you don’t forget,” Salminoa told KTLA. “Especially what she had done to me.”

Salminoa said she’d come to the defense of a cleaning woman Hernandez was berating when Hernandez attacked her, throwing her to the ground and warning her not to get back up. When she did, Salminoa said Hernandez grabbed her hair, pushed her back down and punched her.

Police say the incident was reported the same day, and a formal crime report was taken three days later. But investigators didn’t present charges until after Hernandez achieved notoriety this month.

Salminoa retweeted one of the viral videos, putting pressure on police. “Nothing came of it,” she said of the police report. “What are you going to do about it NOW?”

Berg said there hadn’t been enough “leads” until two videos emerged that showed Hernandez launching into racist rants June 10 at Charles H. Wilson Park. In one, Hernandez is seen targeting a young Asian woman, and in the other an Asian man with his 11-year-old son.

“Go back to whatever (expletive) Asian country you belong in,” Hernandez is seen shouting at the woman, who was at the park working out. “This is not your place. This is not your home. We do not want you here.”

She tells the father and son that “people can’t stand” their presence and uses a mocking accent to repeatedly ask, “You understand me, China man?”

In both videos, Hernandez threatened harm to the victims and their families. The incidents prompted hundreds of people to gather at the park for a protest workout in support of the individuals targeted there.

Police had recommended Hernandez be charged with criminal threats in both incidents. But prosecutors declined to file those counts, citing insufficient evidence.

The department said it was difficult to establish probable cause due to “critical gaps in the evidence regarding how each incident unfolded that result in the lack of necessary certainty required to initiate criminal prosecution against any suspect.”

“It is a prosecutor’s solemn duty to analyze a case based on the evidence and triability and not based on politics or public sentiment unrelated to the likelihood of prevailing before a jury,” the department said in a statement.

Police asked anyone with additional information related to either incident to contact them at 310-328-3456.

Hernandez is wanted on an arrest warrant, and she’ll be scheduled for arraignment once she is in custody, officials said. Due to Los Angeles County’s no-bail order, the warrant was written in the amount of $1.

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