California Woman Permanently Blinded by Police Officer's High-Velocity OC Gas Weapon


Via the blog over at LewRockwell.com comes the story of Monique Christina Hernandez, a Beaumont, California woman who was permanently blinded by Officer Enoch Clark during a DUI traffic stop in February. Officer Clark attempted to handcuff Hernandez, she allegedly resisted, and Clark:

allegedly fired the spray from 12 inches away using a JPX device, which shoots spray at speeds of 400 miles per hour and is supposed to be used at a minimum distance of five feet, Hernandez's lawyer Milton Grimes said in an interview.

"She did nothing to warrant him putting a gun—a pepper-spray Taser gun—to her forehead and pulling the trigger, causing her right eye to explode and causing severe nerve damage in her left eye to the extent that she's not been declared totally blind," Grimes said.

Hernandez say never being able to see her daughter again is the worst part.

"I'll probably imagine her to look like a 10-year old all her life."

Clark's attorney Kasey Castillo released a statement to KTLA saying her client quote: "is remorseful but innocent… and looking forward to his day in court."

Hernandez came to police attention because "someone" called to report she was causing a "disturbance." This is why police pulled her over, also for supposedly driving erratically. However, when she was released from the hospital, she was not charged with anything, not even the DUI.

On April 26, Officer Clark was indicted for four felony counts of "assault with a less-lethal weapon; use of force causing serious bodily injury; assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury and assault under the color of authority."

The JPX device is not technically a firearm (so says the ATF, the National Firearm Act, and the Gun Control Act), nor are its cartridges technically ammunition. However, as touted by the manufacturer:

we are using a blank cartridge to create the necessary pressure level to deliver the OC spray.  The advantages of this patented delivery system are numerous:

1.  No Loss of Pressure.  Most canned sprays will lose pressure over time that will effect the reliability in time of need.
2.  Higher velocity to the target:  Most canned sprays are limited by their internal pressure to how far they will spray and at what velocity.  
3.  Superior accuracy and no risk of deflection through a sidewind.

One again it has to be said that less-than-lethal weapons such as Tasers and tear gas are in theory a good thing, if only because they are not firearms. However, nothing about the JPX device sounds like a good thing. Particularly its incorrect use by an officer in what seems like a minor, barely-criminal manner. 

Maybe the weirdest thing about this case, especially if you're suffering outrage fatigue from other disturbing tales of police brutality, is this:

Beaumont police asked the Riverside County Sheriff's Department to investigate Clark's use of force, the city said in a statement Thursday. Sheriff's investigators then forwarded the case to the district attorney, who convened a criminal grand jury last week. 

Not even the comments on PoliceOne.com are fully in Clark's favor. And when the blue line's website of choice says the officer wasn't well-trained, perhaps real punishment against him is possible. But of course Hernandez will still be blind.

Reason on police and on Tasers

(Hat tip: Anthony Gregory)