10 years ago today, Martin Hernandez was killed by Dan Hurtado, after he surrendered.

A lot of us remember the back-to-back Anaheim Police killings, on July 21 & 22 of 2012, of Manuel Diaz and Joel Acevedo, as being what finally provoked the riots and protests of that summer, and finally some reforms and a two-year lull in killings. Those two killings were the 6th and 7th in a 12-month period. But the pot was already boiling after the March 6, 2012 killing of Martin Hernandez – THAT woulda been the 5th APD killing in 8 months after David Raya in August 2011, Marcel Ceja that November, and Bernie Villegas & Roscoe Cambridge, both in January 2012.

Yeah, that was a lotta police killings in one year, for a city of 340,000.

All of these killings except for Villegas & Cambridge were of young Latino men, accused rightly or wrongly of being gang members and supposedly suspected of being armed, and shot in the back while trying to flee. And it all seemed to be part of brutal then-Deputy Chief Craig Hunter‘s war on gangs. [Also, Martin’s killing was the last one that didn’t have a DA investigation report written about it; Manuel’s and Joey’s were the first that did.]

As usual, the police’s official version of events sharply differed from what witnesses saw:

This is what the police told the press, and the District Attorney who as always took them at their word: Martin “pointed a shotgun at officers after ignoring a command to stop during a pursuit on foot in an alley behind an apartment complex on East Wakefield Street. Officer Dan Hurtado [right, getting some damn award] told investigators he believed a nearby witness was in danger, prompting him to fire three shots from a Bushmaster AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. Hernandez died of a gunshot wound to the head. A pistol-grip shotgun was found next to his body.”

Bullshit, responded witnesses who spoke to Martin’s family – including the one who was supposedly “in danger” – Martin had taken the shotgun from a kid who shouldn’t have had it; when confronted by the police he tossed the gun in a dumpster, tried to get away by scaling a wall (unarmed), turned around and said, Dispensa, you got me” and Hurtado fired 3 quick shots. One shot directly through his head- the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle was so powerful, they couldn’t figure out the trajectory of the bullet.

Then, rather than call an ambulance, Hurtado picked up Martin’s body, threw it back on the ground, placed the shotgun next to him, and left him there in the alley for over seven hours – kids going to school the next day had to see him lying there. (This seemed to be standard operating procedure during the Hunter days – as though to teach the neighborhood a lesson it wouldn’t forget.)

And why should we believe the witnesses? And why should we doubt the police? Well, here’s a good reason – there were THREE VIDEOS that showed what happened – two from apartment complexes and a city camera. The police seized all the videos (people saw them physically take city video; Martin’s mother gave them the other two.) Martin’s mother called the police asking to see the videos; they said the DA took them; so she called the DA’s office every day for months asking to see them, and they told her they were “reviewing them” and would give them to her as soon as they were done. Then after three months they were suddenly all, “Videos? What videos? We never had any videos.” No wonder the family and everyone else were so pissed off in June! And a great sign that the authorities are full of shit and hiding something.

As things turned out, Officer Dan Hurtado (above) was not one of those “sensitive” officers that, after realizing they’ve killed someone, goes around all haunted-like, has psychological trouble, maybe gets self-destructive or even takes his own life. Nah, not Dan. He is more like Kelly Phillips or Sheddy Skeet, and went around the neighborhood bragging about what he’d done like a big guy: “I only kill gangbangers,” he would boast regularly. Eventually a lot of impacted relatives held a press conference about him and other Anaheim cops after a Los Amigos meeting, and new acting Chief Quezada at least had these killer cops moved to other neighborhoods .

I know people (besides Sonia) who knew Martin when he was alive. They say he was REALLY FUNNY, and constantly singing songs – punk rock songs, Mexican songs, and hip-hop. He left behind a son (above); in fact he had a toy for his son on him when he was killed. His family created this Facebook page in his memory.

Why did I write, up above, that “the pot was already boiling” after the killing of Martin, and before that of Manuel and Joey? Because when I first started going to Anaheim Council meetings, in June of 2012, family and friends of Martin, as well as regular concerned citizens, spoke at every meeting, calling out the police version of the killing as a lie, calling the APD racist (as their killings were overwhelmingly of young Latinos at the time), and demanding the release of all the “lost” footage.

The most memorable speakers were always Martin’s sister Sonia and her new partner from LA, the fiery orator Damion Ramirez, a longtime activist against police brutality and killings. I say all this as a prologue to Damion’s and Sonia’s appearance on Marissa Barrera’s podcast “Voices of Strength” late last year – watch it, it’s worth your time! (They start talking about Martin at around 10 minutes, but it’s all good and important.)

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.