SAN JOSE (CBS SF) – The lawyer for a man accused of killing a suspected burglar in San Jose on Monday said Friday his client acted after the San Jose Police Department did not investigate thefts from cars at an apartment complex.
Nelson McElmurry, a private defense attorney for Luis Ricardo Hernandez, said the shooting that killed Christopher Soriano on New Year’s Eve came after San Jose police did not respond to auto burglaries at the complex in the 200 block of Lewis Road.
“It appears these guys were just not getting assistance from police,” McElmurry said.
“My understanding is that they are not responding to auto burglaries as a call for service,” he said. “These are people who feel they have to protect themselves.”
The altercation, in which Hernandez, 26, allegedly shot and killed Soriano, 36, of San Jose, at 9:40 a.m. Monday, happened while Hernandez and others “were trying to help themselves make an arrest” of the victim who was suspected of burglarizing cars, McElmurry said.
But San Jose police spokesman Officer Albert Morales said police did not receive any reports of auto burglaries at the apartment complex during all of 2012.
“In this case we don’t have them reporting it at any time last year,” Morales said.
Police did investigate 11 reported car thefts from the area in 2012, including two in November and one in December, Morales said.
Hernandez, a San Jose resident, appeared in Santa Clara County Superior Court today to be arraigned on murder charges in the death of Soriano, who died of a single gunshot wound outside the apartment complex.
“We need to let the investigation take its course,” Deputy District Attorney Matt Braker said after the brief hearing before declining further comment.
Santa Clara County Judge Jerome Nadler scheduled a plea hearing for Hernandez for Jan. 18.
McElmurry said that if convicted of the murder charge, his client, a maintenance worker at the apartment complex, could face life imprisonment.
“He’s pretty distraught, he’s not a violent person,” McElmurry said. “Anybody who’s been dragged into the system who’s never been there before, it’s got to be stressful.”
“He’s just a really good young man caught in a really bad situation,” McElmurry said.
San Jose police assess calls for service on a priority basis, with property crimes like auto burglaries given a Level 3, or lower status compared to calls about more serious incidents, Morales said.
“If we are working a stabbing, a shooting, obviously a car burglary is going to be a low-level response,” Morales said. “We do get to car burglaries, but it takes some time. It could take two, three or four hours.”
Morales said that leading up to Monday’s apartment complex shooting, some people there apparently were trying to subdue and make a citizen’s arrest of Soriano before calling police.
But the only call police did receive at the time was a report of the shooting itself, Morales said.
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