Less than a mile away from the Anaheim GardenWalk, hundreds of community residents gathered at Ponderosa Park for a march and protest Saturday night. Their concerns were not that of a hotly contested tax giveaway for a future hotel development project in the city, but an Anaheim police officer-involved shooting a week ago today resulting in the death of 21-year old Martin Angel Hernandez.
Marchers, including families, teens and children, carried signs demanding justice as they walked through the neighborhood. The action ended along the long barb-wired brick fenced alleyway near the corner of Haster and Wakefield streets where Hernandez was killed. There was a police presence, including the department's gang unit, on the scene as there has been previously throughout last week.
And a new account of what happened the night Hernandez died.
"There were no incidents between the officers and the mourners," Anaheim Police Sergeant Bob Dunn reported to the Weekly. Asked about the presence of the gang unit at a community protest, he responded, "They supplement the officers who were there. It's an active gang neighborhood with an injunction against Boys From the Hood in place and they are able to enforce violations of it."
The protest capped off a week where family and friends gathered at a makeshift altar where the fatal shooting occurred, including a vigil and ceremony Thursday night. "We see how much support there is," Marla Ochoa-Perez, mother to Hernandez's son, says. "It's good too see how big it's getting and how much bigger it's going to get. My son, he's 2, we're fighting for justice and he's there with us screaming for his dad." Car washes at nearby locations have also been held raising funds for funeral arrangements. In total, the family has collected $4,000 dollars to date to help cover costs.
The Anaheim Police Department has yet to comment on the circumstances leading to the shooting other than what's been said by Sgt. Dunn publicly in other media outlets including the Orange County Register and Los Angeles Times: Officers responded to reports at 9:45 p.m. last Tuesday night of five or six males gathered in the alley. Two men were happened upon, one of which was said to be armed. One fled on bike and the other, Hernandez, was shot and killed by a patrol officer. A shotgun was retrieved near his body. The Orange County District Attorney's Office is conducting its customary investigation. The Anaheim Police Department is doing its own internal investigation. No updates were available to be given to the Weekly by Dunn.
In demanding justice, Ochoa-Perez offers a differing take of what happened that night culled from multiple sources. From them, she recounts that Hernandez was unknowingly followed by police from a nearby Vons to the alley. "What I heard is that he had a shotgun under his jacket and threw it over the wall. When he got shot, he didn't have the weapon on him anymore," Ochoa-Perez explains that accounts were uncertain as to if he had thrown it before or as he attempted to flee. "He ran, but they shot him. After that, he told police officers he gave up and surrendered, but they shot him two or three more times and literally blew his brains out."
"They left his body out and uncovered until 5 or 6 in the morning," she adds.
Prior to last week's shooting, Hernandez had pleaded guilty over the years to a series of criminal offenses, including a gang-related STEP Act conviction, but had just been released from prison this past December. "He got out before Christmas and we spent our first Christmas together as a family," Ochoa-Perez recalls. Those closest to him continue to reiterate his intentions to turn his life around. For now, under his mother's guidance, the family is focusing on the grieving process. The push for answers, they affirm, will come soon after.
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Hernandez, who would have turned 22 later this month, was the fourth instance of an officer-involved shooting in Anaheim so far in 2012. There were only four in the city in all of last year.