Mournful vigils turned into angry protests through the streets of the gang injunction neighborhood where cars are disallowed from even parking on its side streets.
Two months ago, the Orange County District Attorney's investigation ruled the fatal shooting justified and cleared Hurtado of any criminal culpability. One year after that fateful night, family, friends and residents gathered at Hernandez's memorial site anyway demanding justice in remembrance.
On the outside of the neighborhood, many cosmetic changes have taken place since the shooting. The barbed-wire wall has been replaced by a new, stylish brick one that curves to obscure the alley from street view. After construction, the Gene Autry Way extension is complete with freshly paved roads lined with palm trees. Inside, the neighborhood of neglect remains just the same, as does the memory of Hernandez.
About seventy-five demonstrators emerged for a peaceful march just outside the GardenWalk on Katella Avenue. There was virtually no visible police presence. At a stop along the way, Sonia Hernandez recalled her personal nightmare from a year ago. A phone call from a trusted friend informed her that her brother had been shot, but didn't know if whether he was still alive or not.
"I somehow got to Wakefield as soon as I could," Hernandez told the
crowd assembled around her. "I tried to see my brother. They let me see
him about an hour later. I shouldn't have seen my brother like that."
Martin Angel Hernandez had been shot by an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle,
did not survive the wound to his head and laid lifeless in the alley.
Sonia Hernandez continued on, keeping her poise and composure. "I honestly really care about this neighborhood," she said of where she and her brother grew up during their teenage years. "There needs to be a
change. I'm going to try my best to continue coming and help out as much
as I can." At the Anaheim city council meeting the evening before the memorial and march, Hernandez took to the podium during public comment and invited Mayor Tom Tait to visit as he had Anna Drive. The mayor did not come.
"Growing up with my brother was by far the best childhood I could have ever gotten," Hernandez recalled with nostalgia. "We were poor. We didn't have much money, but we made the best of our childhood playing soccer and football outside. I just miss him a lot."
As dusk fell, residents who helped prepare food for the anniversary gathering began serving dinner as more people congregated in the alley. Candles flickered as conversations continued into the night.
Gabriel San Roman is from Anacrime. He’s a journalist, subversive historian and tallest Mexican in OC.