Justice for Hector Hernandez? $8.6 Million to family, but Officer Ferrell still on the street.

Ferrell, Hector, Rotar, Spitzer

It didn’t make any papers (besides the Fullerton Observer) but the family of slain Hector Hernandez just this month received a settlement from the City of Fullerton for a whopping $8.6 MILLION. More than Kelly Thomas’ parents got (which probably enrages Ron Thomas.) As far as I know, the largest payout for an OC police killing except for the $13.2 million from Anaheim to the survivors of Vincent Valenzuela.

The drones in Fullerton government hasten to assure their long-suffering residents that the city’s ONLY on the hook for $600,000, that the remainder is paid by insurance. Just as Anaheim assured us with the Valenzuela payout. What you never hear is how much Fullerton, Anaheim, Santa Ana pay into this insurance, and by how much those premiums get raised, as surely they must as the unjustified police killings add up. [And UPDATE – we have no idea how much the City spent on their high-priced law firm defending this.]

That $8.6 million was the first, surprising, offer from the city’s attorneys… [CORRECTION: It was the first figure a federal civil rights mediator suggested, and the City’s HIGH-PRICED LAW FIRM jumped to accept it.] The family could probably have gotten more if they wanted to take the case further, but that would’ve entailed having Hector’s young son testify so they opted to settle. But that large amount clearly indicates that the evidence was incontrovertible – just as it looked on the bodycam footage, Cpl. Jonathan Ferrell, standing above Hector, shot him twice in the chest as he struggled on the ground with Ferrell’s K-9 Rotar, stabbing the dog once with his work knife that he’d pulled out of his pocket. (Ferrell was NOT, as he’s claimed all this time, in any danger of being hurt himself, nor was anyone else but Hector and the dog.)

A dog that Ferrell should never have let loose on him. Hector had come out of his house, as ordered to, with his hands raised, open and empty, and then confusedly paced around the front lawn trying to comply with various contradictory orders barked out at him by several cops. When Ferrell suddenly and unexpectedly let Rotar loose, the dog at first went after some of the cops because they seemed more menacing, and had to be redirected to Hector, whom he knocked to the ground and commenced to bite.

Ferrell has insisted falsely that Hector was trying to stab FERRELL, and that he “FEARED FOR HIS LIFE®.” He even claimed falsely that Hector was only a foot away from him when it was clearly more like 6 or 7 feet. And it’s clear that the officer acted not in “fear” but in anger at seeing his dog getting hurt, and at that moment considered the canine’s safety more valuable than the young father’s life.

Sure, Hector had been acting a fool earlier – AN HOUR EARLIER – during a brawl with his live-in girlfriend’s teenage son and that son’s teenaged friends. But when Ferrell loosed the dog on him, he was unarmed and complying.

$8.6 million settlement or not, the people are still left asking: IF THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS,

  • Why would you risk reporting a domestic violence incident involving someone you care about?
  • And, if you’re the suspect, Why would you bother complying with the police and following their orders, if you’re still liable to get killed?

And also: How about situations where a cop really legitimately DOES “FEAR FOR HIS LIFE®”, or the life of someone else? It’s a shame that has become a meaningless punch line.

Cpl. Jonathan Ferrell

The friends and family of Hector, along with most of us who are paying attention, are not happy that this guy with the deadly hair-trigger temper (who also cost taxpayers $8.6 million) is still on the police force, and allowed to carry a gun. And we’re also not too happy with him lying for the past 2 years & 3 months about what happened, contradicting the bodycam footage as well as the initial statements of his own fellow FPD officers.

I suppose most of us might be tempted to lie if our livelihoods and possibly our freedom depended on it. And then a bunch of your attorneys urged you to. But thank God for the prevalent use of bodycams now, which makes the go-to defense of police attorneys and their co-conspirators “Who are you gonna believe, us or YOUR LYING EYES?”

And these days, juries and judges are beginning to believe their “lying eyes.”


D.A. Todd Spitzer

But our District Attorney, Todd Spitzer, is even more of a disappointment.

Some people tell me that he warned, when he first ran against the equally useless Tony Rackauckas, that he’d “never prosecute police or sheriffs.” *I* never heard him say that myself, or I may not have supported him in 2018. THAT IS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT PARTS OF A DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S JOB! But he’s certainly kept that promise.

Todd took FOURTEEN MONTHS coming up with a way to let Ferrell off the hook, and could only, finally, produce a mishmash of Ferrell’s nonsense, demonization of Hector, and a highly edited video. The injustice this DA does to families and the public with whitewashes like this is compounded by the damage he adds to the credibility of his office and government in general.

Indifferent to police brutality, indifferent to the OC’s political corruption which he leaves to the FBI, stonewalling investigations even into his predecessor’s abuses, this politician gets re-elected and will keep getting re-elected because he knows how to convince OC’s dumb scared electorate that he’s “KEEPING THEM SAFE.”

Right, I haven’t put any effort into trying to convince you of the facts of this case, or share any videos here. That’s cuz I already wrote about it three times before, as has Matt Leslie:

Bill Brown

I’ve noticed that folks killed wrongly by the police tend to have (if they’re lucky) ONE person, one family member usually, a mother, a sister, a widow, a father, an aunt, who more than anyone else spends the rest of their life fighting for truth and justice for that victim, and telling their story. Really, until everyone else gets tired of hearing about it sometimes.

In Hector Hernandez’ case that person was his friend and neighbor-3-doors-down Bill Brown, who stood on Hector’s lawn and witnessed everything, trying to stop it the whole time. He always reminds us that he was “one of those people who always trusted the police, who always believed what they’d say, until I saw what happened right in front of my eyes, and then heard all the lies they told about it.”

He also, naively, had hope in a Todd Spitzer investigation, pushing Todd for fourteen months to get it finished, and providing him with lots of info Todd really didn’t want. And Todd’s whitewash was devastating to Bill, and Hector’s other friends and family, and he became an outspoken supporter of Todd’s 2022 opponent Pete Hardin, though he’d never been involved in politics before.

Since he was the most effective eyewitness against the police in the family’s lawsuit, the City tried its best, unsuccessfully, to disqualify Bill. They had him scheduled for a three-hour deposition, after which he had to go to work. For three hours they asked him the same questions over and over. When it was time for him to leave, the City insisted he stay for five more hours, because they “weren’t done with him.” Otherwise they’d move to disqualify him for not giving a “full deposition.” He fought back. “I know what you’re doing, you just keep asking me the same questions hoping that I’ll slip up on one detail or another and then you can say I contradicted myself.” Yep. And they failed in disqualifying Bill.

We should all have a friend like Bill Brown.


Has there been “Justice for Hector Hernandez?” Well, we can say that:

  • Thanks to the stubborn efforts of Hector’s friends and family, as well as crack attorney Garo Mardirossian, he’s received more justice than MOST OC police victims;
  • Some day we hope the OC will grow up and have a REAL district attorney;
  • it’s important for the media to report all of this, and the public to know;
  • and What really happened to Clinton Agapinan, August 17 in Anaheim? The official story doesn’t make any sense.

Vern out.

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official political troubadour of Anaheim and most other OC towns. Regularly makes solo performances, sometimes with his savage-jazz band The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.