UPDATE, AUG. 10, 8:38 A.M.: Over the objections of prosecutors, who wanted Hector Manuel Medina sentenced to 11 years in prison, the mechanic got five years for setting a 64-year-old transient on fire last year.
But victim Ruben Sandoval, a military victim who suffered third-degree burns to his face and arms and had all the possessions in his shopping cart incinerated, seeks to right what he sees as another injustice by going after Medina's employer.
Because Bridgestone Americas' Firestone Complete Auto Care had
a policy forbidding transients from loitering near the building at 101 S. Main St., Santa Ana, 32-year-old Medina felt empowered to douse Sandoval's cart with gasoline and set it ablaze, according to the victim's personal injury lawsuit filed in Orange County Superior Court.
Sandoval, who had sometimes lived with his sister in Garden Grove but would often drift back out to the streets, spent six months undergoing treatment at Grossman Burn Center in Sherman Oaks after the tragedy, according to his lawyer, who adds his client underwent multiple skin grafts.
Firestone and Medina are named in the suit that alleges negligence and seeks $1.5 million to cover medical and other costs as well as an unspecified amount for punitive damages.
ORIGINAL UPDATED POST, FEB. 22, 2010, 6:37 P.M.: Mechanic Hector Manuel
Medina previously shooed a homeless man away from the alley behind
Medina's Santa Ana auto shop. When the 32-year-old saw the 64-year-old
transient in the alley two weeks later, the mechanic got a gas canister
from his shop, doused the homeless man and his shopping cart with
gasoline and lit them on fire.
The Orange County District Attorney's office, which advocated an 11-year prison term for Medina, explains below its objection to the five-year sentence he:
SANTA ANA – An automobile mechanic was sentenced today to five years in
state prison for lighting a transient and his possessions on fire after
dousing the victim's shopping cart with gasoline. Hector Manuel Medina,
32, Santa Ana, pleaded guilty to a court offer to one felony count of
arson causing great bodily injury with a sentencing enhancement for
arson with an accelerant. The People objected to the five year
sentence, advocating for an 11-year prison sentence based on the
severity of the victim's injuries.
On Jan. 2, 2010, Medina was working as a mechanic at Firestone Complete
Auto Care at 100 S. Main Street in Santa Ana. At approximately 3:45
p.m., the defendant saw 64-year-old transient Ruben Sandoval in the
alley behind the auto shop. Medina became angry because the victim was
back in the area after the defendant had warned him to leave and not
return after finding Sandoval sleeping in Medina's car on a rainy day
two weeks earlier.
Medina took a gas canister from the garage, approached the victim and
his shopping cart, and doused the cart with gasoline. Some of the
gasoline splashed from the cart onto Sandoval. Medina then lit the cart
on fire with a match. All of the contents of Sandoval's cart were
destroyed, including all of his clothes, blankets, and food. Flames
from the cart jumped and lit the victim's beard on fire. Sandoval
attempted to put out the flames on his face and caught fire to his
hands. A co-worker at the auto shop called 9-1-1. Medina fled the scene
and was arrested shortly thereafter near his home.
Sandoval suffered second and third degree burns to his body, face, and
hands. The victim continues to be hospitalized on a ventilator and is
unable to breathe on his own as a result of these injuries as well as
preexisting medical conditions.
During the sentencing, the defendant's sister, Sue Deleon Alarcon, gave
an impact statement to the court. She explained, "Every time I go see
my brother he cries. I go home crying, but I don't let him see me [in
tears].” Alarcon stated that she can't sleep at night for fear that the
phone will ring and she will hear that something bad has happened to
Deputy District Attorney
Andrew Katz of the Special Prosecutions Unit prosecuted this case.