TimesOC: Secret files detail deadly 2012 police shooting

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TimesOC, a newsletter about Orange County, is published Wednesdays and Fridays.
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Good morning and welcome to the TimesOC newsletter.

It’s Friday, April 1. I’m Ben Brazil, bringing you the latest roundup of Orange County news and events.

After Martin Angel Hernandez was killed by police in an Anaheim alley a decade ago, hundreds of protesters took to the streets contending that Hernandez had surrendered and was unarmed when he was shot to death.

Eventually, downtown riots broke out in response to police shootings in summer 2012. Unsurprisingly to many who follow police shootings, the officer who shot Hernandez was cleared of wrongdoing by the district attorney’s office months later.

In a deep-dive this week, my colleague Gabriel San Román revisited the incident and uncovered new details of the shooting in files that had been kept secret from the public for many years.

One of those crucial findings was that the district attorney’s office was assisted by the Anaheim Police Department in its investigation of the shooting. For the ACLU of Southern California, this level of cooperation is concerning.

“The Anaheim Police Department had direct involvement in witness interviews and evidence collection, putting into question the independence of the district attorney’s findings,” said Jennifer Rojas, a policy advocate and organizer with the ACLU of Southern California. “When police officers are active participants in the district attorney’s investigation into their own department, it casts further doubt on our criminal legal system’s willingness to hold police officers accountable for deadly shootings.”

A memorial for Martin Angel Hernandez along an alley in the 100 block of East Wakefield Avenue in Anaheim.
A standing memorial for Martin Angel Hernandez along an alley in the 100 block of East Wakefield Avenue in Anaheim.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

The legacy of the Hernandez police shooting is still present, in a memorial along the Wakefield alley in Anaheim where he was killed and in the memories of his family.

As recounted by San Román, Sonia Hernandez visited the memorial site on a recent weekend to commemorate her brother. She has been an adamant protester of police misconduct since her brother’s death.

“I felt like he was robbed of justice,” Sonia said. “I do feel some peace knowing that I fought as hard as I could for my brother.”

Hernandez’s death also left a modest mark in Anaheim policy. Since the riots, the city’s police face oversight from a review board and the Office of Independent Review, which is headed by Michael Gennaco, a former federal prosecutor.

However, San Román wrote that D.A. investigations are still carried out in the same way.

“These investigations are conducted as a collaborative relationship with the involved agency, which is absolutely necessary in order to conduct a fair and thorough investigation,” said D.A. spokeswoman Kimberly Edds. “It would be impossible to avoid this crossover due to each investigation being dependent upon the same witnesses, evidence and actors involved.”

D.A. Todd Spitzer holds a press conference to discuss the criminal charges in the shooting death of Aiden Leos.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

MORE NEWS

John Arthur Walthall allegedly hatched a plan to murder federal prosecutors, FBI agents and a judge while serving a prison sentence for wire fraud. He allegedly planned to kidnap the judge that had sentenced him to prison and torture and then shred him in a wood chipper, according to court documents. He was convicted of coming up with the plan and even approaching two inmates to carry out the plot. However, the 2016 conviction was overturned due to the court committing a “structural error” and he is now facing a retrial. My colleague Lilly Nguyen has the story.

A judge ruled this week that a couple charged in a much-publicized shooting death of a 6-year-old will stand trial. Marcus Anthony Eriz was allegedly responsible for killing Aiden Leos during a road-rage incident. His girlfriend, Wynne Lee, is also facing a maximum sentence of three years in state prison on suspicion of being an accessory to the crime. The couple were arrested in Costa Mesa following a 16-day manhunt.

A famous Iranian vocalist was unable to attend a performance at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts because he was detained by agents in a Toronto airport and denied entry to the U.S. Alireza Ghorbani, a legal resident of Canada, was reportedly denied entry due to serving decades earlier in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, wrote reporter Sara Cardine. In 2019, the Trump administration designated the military body as a foreign terrorist organization.

Newport Beach is currently in the process of updating its general plan, which is a blueprint for the city. This week, planning commissioners were given a progress report on the update, which hasn’t been done since 2006. The update is important to bring Newport Beach in compliance with state laws and city codes.

A male juvenile was arrested this week after allegedly attempting to carjack a delivery driver in Huntington Beach. While the boy was caught at the scene, another suspect remained at large. One of the suspects had allegedly pointed a gun at the DoorDash driver before the victim fought them off. The juvenile was booked into the Orange County Juvenile Detention Center on suspicion of attempted robbery and attempted carjacking.

Cheryl Honig is the owner of a kosher Jewish bakery, the Blessed Braid, in Irvine.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

LIFE AND LEISURE

A modern kosher bakery has opened in Irvine. The Blessed Braid is designed a bit differently from traditional bakeries, wrote my colleague Sarah Mosqueda. Instead of showing off the delectable items in a glass case, they are laid out on a marble countertop so people can walk around with a plate and gather the food themselves. “It allows everyone to congregate, to converse and to be integrated and to feel like home,” said owner Cheryl Honig. “I wanted that same thing for my bakery.”

Newport Harbor students are finally able to perform on stage again starting this week with the annual “ArreiS” show, which features various genres of dance ranging from contemporary to jazz to musical theater. This week’s show was the first time the school’s dancers have been able to take the stage since 2019, wrote my colleague Matt Szabo. “As a dancer, obviously a theater feels like your home,” Newport Harbor dance director Jamie Tanzer said. “It’s what you’re used to using, and I think all of the kids are pretty pumped to have some normalcy back. I think just getting to bring the community together again is something that I’m really looking forward to. It’s live art again, right?”

There’s a new mural on the side wall of a Laguna Beach restaurant that depicts all the recreation activities that can be enjoyed at the city’s Main Beach. “Ripple Effect” was created by Timothy Robert Smith, an alumnus and faculty member in the fine arts department of Laguna College of Art and Design. Smith now has six murals around the city, wrote my colleague Andrew Turner.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 29: Shohei Ohtani #17 of the Los Angeles Angels hits a two-run home run.
Shohei Ohtani hits a two-run home run.
(Sarah Stier / Getty Images)

SPORTS

Angels’ slugger Shohei Ohtani is gearing up for the 2022 season and hopes to somehow improve on his legendary 2021 campaign. Reporter Mike Digiovanna wrote this week about the profound respect that Ohtani’s teammates have for him, and their belief that his work ethic and skill will lead him to another MVP season. “He accomplished a lot of the things he wanted to accomplish [last] season, and I know these are lofty expectations, and I know this sounds crazy, but I still think there’s another gear in there, another level,” said Angels general manager Perry Minasian. “As amazing as last year was, I think he can reach higher levels.”

The Fountain Valley High girls’ softball team this week claimed a key league win against Newport Harbor. In the past, Newport Harbor claimed the first two Wave League softball championships, but now the Barons are in control after their 6-0 home victory. The Sailors gave up four unearned runs in the third through fifth innings, leading to their defeat.

Check out this roundup of sports scores from high school teams around Orange County. The rundown includes Ocean View’s pitcher throwing a no-hitter to lead his team to a 10-0 win. Also, Corona del Mar baseball defeated Marina 15-3.

Stay in Touch

If you have a memory or story about Orange County, we would love to read it (please keep your story to 100 words or less).

We want your help in making this the best newsletter it can be. Send any tips or comments to benjamin.brazil@latimes.com or carol.cormaci@latimes.com.

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