Exactly one year ago last night, 21-year old Martin Angel Hernandez was shot and killed in the Wakefield Avenue alley by Anaheim police. The event was followed by outrage in the community as those who witnessed the shooting state that Martin was murdered execution-style.
The days following the shooting, tensions rose as Anaheim gang unit officers roamed the neighborhood, claiming its presence was for “protection” for the community. Even as friends and family mourned the death of their loved one, police vehicles were stationed throughout the enclosed area and residents responded with protests throughout the neighborhood, demanding justice for the killing.
Following the unrest, the Anaheim police department held a “community forum” at the Ponderosa Elementary School library to help clear “rumors” regarding Martin’s shooting.
With the library filled over capacity, Anaheim Police Chief John Welter and Head of Anaheim Gang Unit, Sgt. Juan Reveles dismissed the “rumors” and attempted to appease the furious community, who described their familiarity with police abuse and harassment, with promises of an independent investigation, as well as better communication and collaboration with the people. Instead, the poor neighborhoods of Anaheim have been served with gang injunctions and continued violence by the police.
Just two months ago, the officer who shot and killed Martin, Dan Hurtado, was cleared from any “culpability” by the Orange County District Attorney.
Martin was not the first killed by Anaheim police bullets, nor was he the last, but the extent of his and all other police killing victims’ legacy are reaching far beyond the neighborhoods of Wakefield. Martin’s sister, Sonia Hernandez, has since joined alongside other families of fatal police shooting victims to build a growing coalition of friends, family, and supporters in a quest for transparency, accountability, and justice for their loved ones.
Last night, a memorial was held for Martin's "1 year in heaven". Wakefield residents joined with other families of victims of police killings such as of Javier Arrazola, from Reseda, Jose de la Trinidad, from Compton, Michael Lee Nida II, from Downey, and Manuel Diaz, Cesar Cruz, Joe Whitehouse, and Marcel Luis Ceja from Anaheim.
“Tenemos que estar unidos,” we have to be united, commented Javier Arrazola Sr., who made a three-hour drive to attend Martin’s remembrance.
Just as they did almost a year ago, the Wakefield community gathered to march down the alley and onto the street. They pounded the pavement down Haster St towards the W Katella Ave intersection where, armed with banners, posters, and photographs of Martin, they continued their message of, “No Justice, No Peace.”
Without any altercations, the march returned to the Wakefield alley, where they joined for a community dinner. Afterwards, those who knew Martin shared some words with the community.
“To all the mothers who are present here, or listening from their windows,” addressed a local resident, “these young men here are not bad people. Just because they have chosen a different path than yours does not make them bad people…You all know that Martin was an incredible person. He would help people carry their groceries, help them carry their trash bags, their gallons for water, he would help them push their car whenever it would get stuck – don’t let anyone forget, that no one deserves the death that this young man got.”
Genevieve Huizar, who’s son Manuel Diaz was also shot and killed by Anaheim police just four months after Martin, expressed the need for solidarity and unity amongst the different neighborhoods.
“You need to unite,” explained Genevieve, “don’t kill each other, don’t fight over a neighborhood, don’t fight over a girlfriend – the thing is, these cops are doing it for you. The cops are killing our sons all over, in every city - they’re killing brothers, they’re killing fathers.”
“It’s amazing when something tragic brings something beautiful,” shared one of Martin’s friends, “we’re all here grouped together, and everyone’s loving each other, everybody’s acting friendly – that’s good, we don’t need any of this negativity.”
“I have nothing but good memories of my cousin,” shared Martin’s cousin, “I don’t let the cops tell me nothing bad, the stuff I read in the newspaper – I know its not true. I just pray one day we do get justice for my cousin because he deserves it and our family deserves it.”
The event ended in front of Martin’s memorial where everyone looked to the sky and joined hands in a prayer.