Local News

Mayor, Council, and Community Seek Answers in Police Killing of Hector Hernandez

For over a year, family and friends of Hector Hernandez, who was shot and killed by Fullerton police officer Jonathan Ferrell in front of his home in May 2020, have pressed City Council and the police department for justice and transparency for this killing. They have held several protests and spoken at Council meetings and on May 27, a candlelight vigil.

Hernandez’s two sons light candles on the spot where he was killed by a Fullerton police officer one year ago. Photo by Gaston Castellanos.

Until recently, the Mayor and members of Council have remained silent on the topic, citing legal constraints and the ongoing investigation into the matter. However, after listening to public comments from family, friends, and advocates for justice at the May 18 council meeting, Mayor Whitaker and Councilmember Ahmad Zahra spoke about the issue.

Whitaker received Council support to send a letter to the District Attorney Todd Spitzer “requesting overdue information” on the investigation.

“I greatly resent that we as councilmembers have been rendered silent on the Hector Hernandez situation,” Whitaker said. “There are legal reasons for that, but it nonetheless does not alleviate the frustration that I’ve felt for nearly a year now.”

Whitaker also acknowledged the fact that all the body cam footage from the May 27 killing of Hernandez has not been released.

“Here we are closing in on a year, and we don’t have that full accounting,” Whitaker said.

Councilmember Zahra said that while “it’s difficult for us to discuss this because it’s an active investigation,” he requested that Council receive an update on the case at their next meeting.

“I want to acknowledge the pain that the family of Mr. Hernandez is going through,” Zahra said.

Among the many members of the public who addressed Council on this matter was Ameena Qazi, a Fullerton lawyer.

“It’s been nearly a year,” Qazi said. “Hector was murdered just two days after George Floyd, and in that time Derek Chauvin has been charged, tried, and convicted of his murder. Where is our justice for Hector?”

Following the May 27 killing of Hernandez, the Fullerton Police Department released a Critical Incident Report that included selected portions of body cam and 911 footage, along with narration by Fullerton Police Chief Robert Dunn and Lt. Jon Radus.

Advocates for Justice for Hector have pointed out that the department has not released all the body cam footage, and that the footage released gives an incomplete picture of the events that evening.

“The community must have access to all body cam footage of the incident,” Jennifer Rojas, from the ACLU of Southern California, said. “The footage that is currently available is highly editorialized and serves to exonerate the officer and prosecute Hector Hernandez.”

She cited SB 1421, the “Right to Know Act” that “was passed because the families and the public have a right to know what happened when the police kill someone.”

On May 27, friends, family and members of the community held a vigil on the lawn of Hernandez’s house on the one year anniversary of his death, to share their memories, grief, and resolve to seek justice.

Family and friends of Hernandez gather for a vigil on the one year anniversary of his death. Photo by Gaston Castellanos.

Bill Brown and Kelly Williams light candles for Hernandez. Photo by Gaston Castellanos.