SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — Two women were detained Friday after fighting outside the Santa Clara County Hall of Justice as tensions mounted between family members of a fatal shooting victim and his alleged shooter, a sheriff’s department spokesman said.
A supporter of homicide victim Christopher Soriano and a backer of defendant Luis Ricardo Hernandez were briefly held by Santa Clara County sheriff’s deputies and released outside the courthouse, sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Jose Cardoza said.
“After talking to both sides, neither decided to press charges,” Cardoza said. “Deputies separated the groups.”
Cardoza declined to provide details, but Soriano’s mother Glenda said that the dead man’s daughter, Delilah Soriano, 19, got into a scuffle with a woman who came to the courthouse to stick up for Hernandez during his court appearance around 2:15 p.m.
Hernandez, 26, is being held in the Santa Clara County Jail in San Jose on $1 million bail on murder charges in the death of Soriano, 36, allegedly shot and killed on New Year’s Eve outside a San Jose apartment complex.
The defendant and his supporters claim he made a citizen’s arrest of Soriano, whom Hernandez held responsible for auto burglaries in the complex that Hernandez helped manage.
Prosecutors said when Soriano tried to flee, Hernandez fired a shot that killed him.
His attorney, Nelson McElmurry, and the defendant’s family and friends insist the shooting was the result of frustrations that people in the complex, in the 200 block of Lewis Road, have over inadequate responses to crime calls by the San Jose Police Department.
McElmurry said Friday that Soriano died from a gunshot wound to his buttocks in what may have been an attempt by Hernandez to fire a warning shot to stop the victim.
Shortly after 1 p.m., about 20 family members, friends and neighbors of Hernandez, many wearing white t-shirts with his photo and the message “Man of God” emblazoned on them, held a news conference to protest his $1 million bail and call for his release from jail.
Gina Gates, who said she has known Hernandez for years, said that the complex that used to employ him and provided an apartment now wants to evict his family within two weeks and only recently hired on-site security.
Gates described Hernandez as “a very hard working young man,” a single parent and “soccer dad.”
She complained that Hernandez had detained Soriano for committing burglaries after San Jose failed to answer their reports about crimes.
“Can you please tell us what to do?” Gates said of police. “We would appreciate it so things like these do not happen.”
The group convinced 500 people to sign an online petition on change.org to advocate for Hernandez’s release, Gates said.
Paulina Martinez, 22, who said that Hernandez’s son is her nephew, said, “he deserves a second chance. I think he did not have intentions (to kill the victim).”
Veronica Ordaz, 25, describing herself as a family friend, said that there were “a lot of auto burglaries” at the complex and she heard that “many people get their apartments broken into.”
San Jose police, meanwhile, have said that there were 11 car thefts reported in the neighborhood in 2012 but not a single auto burglary the entire year and they have to prioritize life-threatening emergencies over property crimes.
In the courtroom, Santa Clara County Judge Jerome Nadler set another case status hearing for Hernandez for Feb. 15, Deputy District Attorney Matt Braker said.
After the short hearing let out, people in the hallway started talking about threats made to others outside the courtroom and a deputy sheriff sprinted past the crowd and ran upstairs.
Outside the court which is under the jurisdiction of the sheriff’s office, six deputies stood by to keep the camps for Hernandez and Soriano, who wore t-shirts with a photo and name of the victim, apart and escort them to their cars.
Glenda Soriano, who lives in Modesto, said she expects Hernandez’s trial to last a long time.
“I realize it’s going to be slow,” she said. “I just know my son did not deserve to die the way he did.”
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