Orange County DA Clears Police Officer in Fatal Anaheim Shooting

By Melissa Pamer and Vikki Vargas
|  Tuesday, Jan 8, 2013  |  Updated 8:24 PM PDT
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Anaheim Officer Dan Hurtado fatally shot 21-year-old Martin Angel Hernandez on March 6, 2012, after a 911 caller described five to six men handling firearms behind an apartment complex while yelling out a gang name. It was decided on Tuesday that officer could not be prosecuted for the shooting. Vikki Vargas reports from Anaheim for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Jan. 8, 2013.

Vikki Vargas

Anaheim Officer Dan Hurtado fatally shot 21-year-old Martin Angel Hernandez on March 6, 2012, after a 911 caller described five to six men handling firearms behind an apartment complex while yelling out a gang name. It was decided on Tuesday that officer could not be prosecuted for the shooting. Vikki Vargas reports from Anaheim for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Jan. 8, 2013.

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A police officer who shot a documented gang member in the head, killing him in an Anaheim alley, will not be prosecuted, according to a report from the Orange County District Attorney's office release Tuesday.

Anaheim Officer Dan Hurtado fatally shot 21-year-old Martin Angel Hernandez March 6, 2012, after a 911 caller described five to six men handling firearms behind an apartment complex while yelling out a gang name.

"The evidence establishes that, before Officer Hurtado fired his gun, he found himself face to face with an armed subject who ignred the officer's commands to stop and pointed a shotgun at the officer," the report from Senior Deputy District Attorney Troy Pino states.

"It is our legal opinion and conclusion that there is no evidence of criminal culpability on the part of Officer Hurtado and there is substantial evidence the officer acted reasonably under the circumestances when he shot and killed Hernandez."

The DA's conclusion comes after Anaheim has been in the spotlight because the city was last summer rocked by violent protests over police shootings that prompted internal investigations and independent reviews.

For the investigation into Hernandez's death, 60 witnesses were interviewed, the report from District Attorney Tony Rackauckas' office said.

On the night of March 6, Hurtado and another officer approached opposite ends of the alley behind East Wakefield Avenue on foot. Hurtado bore a Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle.

According to a witness, two men came toward Hurtado, who yelled for them to stop, saying he would shoot. Then shots rang out. Another witness saw Hernandez bleeding on the ground with a shotgun at his side.

Hurtado said Hernandez was running toward him while holding a pistol-grip shotgun that, while hiding behind a trash container, he raised to point at the officer.

"Since he was now in the open alley with no cover and believed he was about to be shot, Officer Hurtado discharged his department-issued rifle," the report (PDF) said, adding that Hurtado fired three rounds.

Hernandez's mother, now in Arizona, was in tears when asked about the DA's report Tuesday. She referred a request for comment to her attorney, Humberto Guizar.

"It sounds to me like he was lying in wait for this young man," said Guizar, who has filed a claim against the city. "From witnesses that I have, which are not included in this report, it appears this kid threw the rifle – the shotgun – away because he did not want to go to jail. The last time I checked, you should not die for that."

Community members said Tuesday that they felt Hernandez should not have been shot.

"Everybody love him. He was very respectful," said Claudia Arteaga, a friend of Hernandez. "For the cops to do that, it hurts all of us."

The police department said it would have no comment.

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