A 25-year-old mystery solved: Last unidentified victim of ’92 L.A. riots has a name
For a quarter-century after his charred body was found inside a Pep Boys torched in the 1992 Los Angeles riots, he was known as John Doe No. 80.He was the only remaining unidentified victim among the more than 60 people who lost their lives in the deadliest riots in U.S. history.
His body was so badly burned that coroner’s investigators were left only with some teeth and a partial print from his left middle finger.But they never forgot about him. Every few years, they would try to match the fingerprint.
Recently, coroner’s investigators sent the print to an FBI squad that specializes in identifying victims of disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.Last month, as the 25th anniversary of the riots approached, a name came back: Armando Ortiz Hernandez, who was 18 when he died.Hernandez had a few minor arrests in Los Angeles County and Anaheim, allowing the FBI investigators to make a match, said Ed Winter, deputy chief of investigations for the Los Angeles County coroner.“We tried many, many times over the years. Every couple of years, someone would pick up the file,” Winter said. “Finally, we did it.”
Hernandez’s only known relative is a sister in Mexico, who was recently notified of his death.In many cases, detectives have not been able to determine the circumstances of deaths tied to the rioting that engulfed Los Angeles after four Los Angeles Police Department officers were acquitted in the beating of a black man, Rodney G. King.Because the fire at the Pep Boys was deliberately set, John Doe No. 80’s death was ruled a homicide. He joined the list of 23 riot-related homicides that have never been solved.Whether his identity will shed light on his death is unclear. Hernandez was inside the auto repair shop at 5801 South Vermont Ave., just north of Slauson Avenue, when it was set on fire sometime after the riots started on April 29, 1992. His body was not found until May 2.A pair of blue underwear and the remnants of a pair of blue jeans, as well as a .38-caliber bullet casing, were found inside the blackened store. Hernandez died of smoke inhalation and burns, according to the coroner.He was cremated and buried in a mass grave at the L.A. County cemetery with other unclaimed bodies.
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For a quarter-century after his charred body was found inside a Pep Boys torched in the 1992 Los Angeles riots, he was known as John Doe No. 80.
He was the only remaining unidentified victim among the more than 60 people who lost their lives in the deadliest riots in U.S. history.
His body was…