Justice For Hector Hernandez

Donna Chadwick, Hector Hernandez was fatally shot by Fullerton police officer in 2020. (Garett Troutman / Voice of Orange County)

Over 20 organizations have united to bring justice to Hector Hernandez, a 34-year-old Fullerton resident who was shot and killed by a Fullerton Police officer on May 27, 2020.

Hernandez’s death has sparked outrage among the Orange County community, with many arguing his death was unjustifiable.

On Tuesday evening, multiple people gathered outside of Fullerton City Hall to protest and demand answers as to why Officer Jonathan Ferrell shot Hernandez.

According to a news briefing from the Fullerton Police Department, at the night of Hernandez's death, officers responded to a family disturbance from a 15-year-old who said his step-father, Hernandez, was intoxicated and threatening family members with a knife and had armed himself with a gun.

The briefing said officers gave Hernandez orders to safely detain him, but Hernandez walked back and forth between the front of the door and the street. Ferrell said he feared the safety of a 9-year-old inside the house, so he released his police dog to assist in an arrest.

“While it was unknown to officers at the time, Mr. Hernandez used the knife to stab K9 Rotar, with K9 Corporal Ferrell in close proximity as he was attempting to release K9 Rotar and facilitate an arrest,” according to the briefing. “This action resulted in an Officer Involved Shooting (OIS). Mr. Hernandez later passed away at area hospital.”

The shooting is currently being investigated by Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer and Hernandez’s family has hired their own attorney, hoping to obtain more information about the shooting, according to a Voice of Orange County story.

The Justice For Hector Hernandez! Coalition consists of multiple local organizations such as Law Enforcement Accountability Network, Transforming Justice Orange County and Los Amigos of Orange County.

Four Cal State Fullerton organizations have also joined the coalition, including the College Progressives of CSUF, College Democrats of CSUF, Students for Quality Education and MEChA de Cal State Fullerton.

In a letter to the Fullerton City Council, the coalition listed demands that included the immediate firing of Ferrell. They also want them to release the full, unedited sources of the body camera footage from the night of Hernandez’s death per AB 748.

The coalition also urges the city to immediately end its contract with Lexipol, a private firm that determines Fullerton Police Department’s procedures. The letter said the company lacks public oversight and limits community input on the policies officers must follow.

The coalition also wants the council to “form a task force by the end of April 2021 to investigate resources that can be diverted from the Fullerton Police Department budget to other preventative agencies, such as emergency response teams, that will promote community health, not police violence.”

Carolina Mendez, a fourth-year political science major and the president of College Progressives of CSUF, said the members of the coalition not only want to secure justice, transparency and accountability for Hernandez’s death, but also demand that the city addresses deeper systemic issues with policing.

“That's what really caught my attention and so we started looking into it, and we developed a call to action that we presented to the city in the letter,” Mendez said. “They're a step in the right direction, and so while we have short-term goals, we also have long-term goals that we're fighting for.”

Mendez said that Tuesday’s rally at city hall went great as members from the family spoke along with other community members.

“It was a very touching moment of solidarity for the community expressing that unity with the family,” Mendez said. “It was just a great atmosphere. As great as it could be in a situation that is as difficult as this.”

Ileana Lugo, a senior human services major at CSUF and member of Students for Quality Education, also known as the SQE, said she believes Hernandez deserves justice and she wants to spread awareness. She clarified that the coalition specifically focuses on bringing justice for Hernandez and keeping Fullerton Police accountable.

Lugo said the student organization focuses on issues within the CSUs and works toward equity, affordability and quality of education, but still felt it was important to get involved with the movement.

“SQE wants to maintain and build alliances with community organizations and community members. This is why we wanted to show up for the folks who are in need of support, and be in solidarity with them,” Lugo said. “This is something that SQE does in other neighborhoods and communities surrounding other CSU campuses like up in NorCal as well.”

Lianni Cruz, a human services and Chicana and Chicano studies major at CSUF, is a member of MEChA de Cal State Fullerton, a political, social, educational and cultural organization.

Cruz said the club felt it was important to join the coalition to be there for the community and that it is also within their vision that police be defunded, demilitarized and abolished.

“Police continue to get slaps on the wrist at the expense of the lives of our communities and we have had enough,” Cruz said. “We hope that the impact of the coalition results in the demands that were asked for.”

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