Police Officer Pleads Not Guilty to Criminal Charges
Beaumont Police Officer Enoch Clark leave Riverside Superior Court after posting bail on Thursday, April 26, 2012. (KURT MILLER/THE PRESS-ENTERPRISE)
RIVERSIDE - Thursday a Beaumont police officer plead not guilty on criminal charges stemming from excessive force while on duty on February 21, 2012.
Officer Enoch Clark, facing 20 years in prison, was indicted on April 19, 2012, by a Riverside County criminal grand jury on four counts: assault under the color or authority, assault with a less lethal weapon, use of force causing serious bodily injury, and assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury. There is also an enhancement that he personally inflicted great bodily injury.
Back in February, Clark was investigating a possible driving under the influence. During the investigation, there was an altercation between Clark and a woman, Monique Hernandez, while he was attempting to handcuff her. Clark pulled a less-than-lethal device, known as a JPX pepper spray pistol. The device shoots pepper spray at a speed of more than 400 miles per hour. The device is to be used at a minimum distance of five feet. Officer Clark shot Hernandez in the face at a distance of only 10 inches. Both of her eyes were severely injured and it is doubtful she will see again, according to medical reports.
On the day of the alleged assault, Hernandez had driven her younger sister to pick up the woman's 2-year-old daughter, who was visiting her biological father, according to Grimes. He said during the ensuing child custody exchange, Hernandez's sister and ex-boyfriend got into an argument, resulting in the latter grabbing the woman, at which point Hernandez intervened, grappling with the man to protect her sister.
The man's mother called police, and Hernandez left the location with her sister and the 2-year-old, Grimes said. According to the attorney, when Hernandez arrived at her parents' house a few minutes later, Officer Clark was waiting to question her about what had happened during the child custody exchange. Grimes said Hernandez's parents and several siblings observed the encounter, and at no time was the victim aggressive.
``For whatever reason, this officer decides to give her a field sobriety test,'' Grimes said. ``Then he tries to give her a breathalizer test, but the unit is not working right, so finally he decides to arrest her for being under the influence. ``She asks him, `What did I blow?' And he tells her to shut up and slams her head to the hood of the car. He got her hands behind her back. She's not biting or resisting. But he puts this pepper spray weapon to her head and pulls the trigger. She hears a boom, and that's the last thing she remembers.''
According to Grimes, paramedics responded and washed the propellant from Hernandez's face, then left. He said Clark and a backup officer transported the woman to a nearby hospital, handcuffed her to a bed for 45 minutes and then removed the shackles and told her she was free to go. Grimes said the victim's parents took her to a hospital in Redlands, where she stayed for a week and ``came out totally blind.'' ``Her right cornea is split and the nerve in her left eye is irreparably damaged,'' Grimes said. ``She says she can make out light.''
Grimes said the fact that the defendant was indicted proves the officer's actions cannot be justified as a ``mistake or self-defense.'' He said Hernandez is at home with her parents, ``learning how to take care of herself all over again'' and caring for her 10-year-old daughter.