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Anaheim policeman cleared in fatal shooting of alleged gang member

January 8, 2013 |  5:09 pm

Anaheim violence
Orange County prosecutors have decided not to file criminal charges against an Anaheim police officer who fatally shot an alleged gang member in the head last March after responding to a call that a group of men — some armed — were gathered in an alleyway.

In a letter released Tuesday by the Orange County district attorney's office, which detailed the investigation in the case, prosecutors said Anaheim Officer Dan Hurtado acted "reasonably under the circumstances" when he shot and killed 21-year-old Martin Angel Hernandez on March 6, and could not be held criminally culpable. 

In the shooting, police said the caller told them he saw one of the men put a handgun behind the driver's seat of a car and another man tuck a gun in his waistband. The other men, the caller said, had been yelling out the name of their gang, according to the investigation letter.

An audio recording of the 911 call reviewed by district attorney investigators picked up at least one male voice in the background yelling the gang's name.

Three uniformed officers -- including Hurtado -- were dispatched to the neighborhood and Hurtado came up on the men, holding a department-issued semiautomatic rifle.

One witness, an unnamed woman, saw the officer approaching the men, who she said had shaved heads and baggy pants. She said she heard the officer yell, " 'Stop or I'll shoot' or something very similar." She said the officer was "loud and clear" and repeated the command more than once. Then she described hearing two or three gunshots. 

Another witness in a nearby apartment at the time of the shooting went into the alley and videotaped the scene with his cellphone. Investigators said the video showed the man lying on the ground, bleeding from the head with a shotgun next to him. 

In a subsequent statement from Hurtado, he said that he saw a man — later identified as Hernandez — with a shaved head, in a gray hooded sweatshirt and dark pants, running. Hurtado also noticed that he was carrying a shotgun. Hurtado said Hernandez was about 25 to 35 yards away but was quickly approaching. 

Hurtado said that he pointed his rifle at Hernandez and identified himself. He said he told the man something to the effect of "Stop, police" at least once. He said he saw Hernandez stop and change direction when he was about 10 yards away from Hurtado.

Hernandez then approached a dumpster, flipped his shotgun around the front of his body and raised the barrel so that it was pointed toward Hurtado, according to Hurtado's account. 

Hurtado, who was in an open alleyway without cover, fired three rounds in rapid succession, according to investigators.

An autopsy showed that Hernandez died from a gunshot to the head.

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— Rick Rojas

Photo: Residents in Anaheim watch a protest across the street after several officer-involved shootings in the city. Credit: Allen J. Schaben

 

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