A Beaumont woman left blind after a police officer shot her with a pepper spray gun says she plans to file a legal claim sometime next week against the City of Beaumont, setting the stage for a civil lawsuit.
32-year old Monique Hernandez was shot in the head by Beaumont police officer Enoch Clark, 36, on Feb. 21 with a pepper spray gun as he tried to arrest her on suspicion of drunk driving. The gun uses a “wafer” of gunpowder to propel a stream of pepper spray shot at a speed of more than 400 mph, according to the Riverside County district attorney’s office. Manufacturers advise the gun be shot from a minimum of five feet away but it has been determined that Officer Clark fired the pepper spray at Hernandez only 10 inches away from her head.
Hernandez said doctors told her that the force of the shot destroyed half of her right eye and caused serve nerve damage in her left eye leaving her permanently blind.
“I didn’t realize how severe it was at that time,” said Hernandez. She said it wasn’t till after she spent a few days in the hospital that she began to realize she still had not been able to see.
Hernandez cried as she explained having to relearn simple things such as walking or bathing and not being able to take care of her daughter.
“It’s hard to know that I will probably imagine her to look like a 10-year old all her life," she said. "That’s the worst part."
A Riverside County grand jury indicted Clark last week on three counts of assault and one for use of force. He pleaded not guilty. He posted a $50,00 bond and has been placed on administrative leave.
Hernandez’s attorney, Milton Grimes said there was no call for backup. Grimes said there was another officer with Clark who was talking to the family who watched the incident from their front lawn.
“If he thought that his fellow officer needed some assistance, he would have assisted him,” Grimes said. “So there were no circumstances warranting the use of this type of force.”
Grimes said he would be open to negotiating a settlement with Beaumont.
The city attorney said he could not comment on the case until the matter is resolved.