Saturday evening, dozens of friends and family members gathered at the corner of North Grand Ave and East 15th St in Santa Ana for a candlelight vigil to mourn the killing of 41-year old Jason Erling Hallstrom by Santa Ana Police last month.
On the afternoon of March 15th, Jason Hallstrom and his friend Travis Stuart Mock were traveling on the South 5 freeway in Santa Ana when they were pursued by the Santa Ana “Strike Force”, Orange County’s only full-time Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team, pressuring Hallstrom and Mock to exit at Grand Ave when officers attempted to pull over the Nissan Sentra they were traveling in for an “undisclosed reason”. Once on Grand Avenue, both Jason and Travis exited the vehicle after Mock crashed on E 15th St. The police then shot both men as they attempted to flee the scene. Hallstrom and Mock were unarmed.
Both men were transported to Western Medical Center where they were originally placed in “serious, but stable condition.” Hallstrom passed away in the hospital eight days later on Saturday, March 23rd.
The shooting of Jason “Hoss”, as his friends knew him, and Travis Mock has left more questions than answers for their friends and family.
“There are just so many unanswered questions and there are so many things that don’t make sense to me,” explains Jason’s longtime friend Karen Birtcher, “The freeway chase consists of getting on 4th street and getting off on Grand, that’s less than a quarter mile – that was the freeway chase! They said they crashed while trying to get away, but there aren’t any skid marks on the street. What I do know for a fact is that Travis called me at 2:47 to say he was going to stop by - then everything was said and done at 2:55 – that’s eight minutes. It took eight minutes to call, say he was going to stop by, drive to my house, talk to my daughters, then drive and be shot at eight minutes later. None of it makes any sense.”
Jason’s friends explain that Jason didn’t carry any ID on him, and confirmed with Mock that they weren’t carrying any ID’s at the time of the shooting – raising questions as to how Santa Ana police were able to give the names of the “suspects” to local media just minutes following the shooting. Initial police reports also gave mixed identities by stating that Hallstrom was the driver and Mock was the passenger.
Even more questions arose when reports given to local media describe a “crime scene” in place, before the shooting ever happened.
Nick Avalos, who was walking nearby before the shooting took place, reported to local media that “he saw police blocking the street before he heard gunfire.”
Jaime Ruiz of Orange also “noticed a police presence and yellow tape” on Grand Avenue minutes before the shooting occurred.
Friends of the men shot by Santa Ana police also explain that Travis Stuart Mock is a survivor of a different police shooting back in 2011.
In the early morning of February 17th, 2011, “off-duty” Anaheim police officer Tim Schmidt arrived to his Anaheim Hills home after his shift. When he arrived at his driveway, he noticed Mock walking near his unmarked APD police vehicle and “feared he had been followed home” and that “Mock’s intent was to rob him.” Schmidt exited his vehicle in an attempt to subdue Mock. Mock attempted to flee when Lieutenant Schmidt claims he observed Mock reach “into his right front jacket pocket” to remove a “black object.” Schmidt then shot Mock in the lower back. Mock was unarmed.
Later that year, Orange County District Attorney, Tony Rackauckas, cleared Lieutenant Schmidt of any “criminal culpability” stating that the shooting of Mock was “justified under the circumstances.”
Mock and his brother were scheduled to give their depositions in regards to the Anaheim shooting on Saturday, March 16th, the day after Mock and Hallstrom were chased and shot by Santa Ana “Strike Force.”
During the vigil last Saturday, friends and family gathered at the place where Jason was shot by police on the corner of North Grand Ave and East 15th St. Bullet holes still decorate a home’s window shutters just two houses down from the intersection.
Everyone present lit a candle for Jason that night as some went around sharing their memories of him. Jeff Lowe, who’s known Jason for eighteen years, drove out from Arizona to attend the vigil with his wife.
“I really don’t know what to say,” said Jeff in front of a crowd in tears, “I’m scared because I don’t want to bust out crying, but I am so proud for everybody coming out and supporting tonight.”
“He was my brother – he was my brother form another mother, we would always say,” shared one of Jason’s friends, “and wherever it was, we rolled together. I had so much love for him, we could stop seeing each other for years, and we’d run into each other and again it was like we picked up right where we left off…That was my brother, may god have his soul.”
Families of other fatal police shooting victims from different cities were also present to lend their support to Jason’s family. Genevieve Huizar, whose son Manuel Diaz was shot and killed by Anaheim police bullets 9 months ago, spoke of solidarity with Hoss’s family.
“We just found out about this yesterday,” explained Huizar, “and we’re here as a group to say we are united with you and if there’s anything we can do to help, that’s why we’re here, and to really give you our condolence.”
Jason is the second person killed by Santa Ana police this year. Earlier in January, Santa Ana police shot and killed 39-year old Binh Van Nguyen while in his car. Officers claim Binh “accelerated towards” officers in an attempt to “strike them” with his vehicle, but photographs taken by local media show that police shot through the driver’s window, where officers would be away from the car’s path. Binh was unarmed. He left behind two boys, ages 13 and 7.
Jason “Hoss” Hallstrom leaves behind two daughters and two step-daughters.