‘Torrance Karen’ Will NOT Face Hate Crime Charges Over Racist Rants, City Attorney Says
Lena Hernandez, the 54-year-old resident of Torrance, California who went viral for her racist rants against Asian Americans in June, will not be charged with any crime related to those incidents, the City Attorney’s Office said on Thursday.
The retired social worker, however, is facing a battery charge related to a “hostile encounter” last October, in which she allegedly grabbed, pushed and punched another Asian American.
I filed a police report on this same lady back in October 2019 due to a physical attack ON ME. Nothing came of it. What are you going to do about it NOW? @TorrancePDpic.twitter.com/mKObXxxDba
Her victims: Hernandez, who remains at large, has allegedly victimized three Asian Americans in Torrance: Kayceelyn Salminao, a Filipino American; Sherry Bulseco, another Filipino American; and an unidentified Japanese American man, along with his two minor children.
Hernandez was charged with battery over the incident involving Salminao, which allegedly occurred inside a restroom at Del Amo Fashion Center on Oct. 11, 2019. Hernandez allegedly pushed Salminao to the ground and yelled, “You better not get the f*** up, or else!” When Salminao got up, Hernandez allegedly “grabbed her by the hair, pushed her head toward the ground and punched her multiple times in the back of her head.”
On June 10, 2020, Hernandez allegedly assaulted Bulseco at Wilson Park, both physically and verbally. Bulseco was reportedly working out in the area when Hernandez allegedly launched a racist tirade, telling her to “Go back whatever f***ing Asian country you belong in!” This part was caught on a now-viral video.
An incident involving a Japanese American man and his two minor children also occurred on June 10. The incident, which was also caught on video, saw Hernandez repeatedly refer to the man as “Chinaman,” threatening him and his children: “You are going to get f***ed and your kids are going to get f***ed.” The man’s children allegedly saw and heard everything.
The victims, who previously lodged individual reports to the Torrance Police Department, recently banded together and hired an attorney, Sandy Roxas of Sandy Roxas Law, to pursue legal action.
Among the first steps they took was a Call for Action, a formal statement that detailed events of their encounters and demanded prosecution of Hernandez. The document was sent to Torrance Mayor Patrick J. Furey, Torrance City Attorney Patrick Q. Sullivan and Torrance Police Chief Eve R. Berg.
In their Call for Action, the victims slammed Torrance Police for diminishing and decriminalizing Hernandez’s acts of hate as “unfortunate incidents.” Salminao’s case, in particular, was reported to be retracted and left uninvestigated despite her persistence for justice. They urged the police department and the City Attorney to investigate and prosecute Hernandez for her actions.
Hernandez charged: On July 2, the Torrance City Attorney’s Office charged Hernandez with battery over the incident involving Salminao.
A judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court issued an arrest warrant for Hernandez on the same day. As of this writing, she has not been apprehended. A date for her arraignment will be determined once she is taken to custody.
Hernandez, however, will not be charged with any crime for her encounters with Bulseco and the Japanese American family, which have since earned her the internet nickname “Torrance Karen.” According to the City Attorney, there is simply “insufficient evidence” to support any charge over the incidents. Anyone with information related to them is urged to contact Torrance police.
“After a careful review of all the evidence available at this time, there is insufficient evidence to support filing any criminal charges against Ms. Hernandez,” the City Attorney’s Office said. “A prosecutor in a criminal case shall not institute a charge that the prosecutor knows is not supported by probable cause. Currently, there are 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.”
The Japanese American father expressed disappointment over the decision in an exclusive interview with May Lee, who has been following this story since it broke last month. He believes that it sends the message that it is alright to treat Asians in such a way. He plans to take his case to higher authorities, stressing that his kids “heard everything” and that he seeks to press child endangerment charges for the threats Hernandez had said.
Hernandez’s bail is set at $1. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, Los Angeles County Courts have set bail for most misdemeanors at $0. This suggests she can still roam free even after her arrest.
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