Push for Justice in OC Police Killing
By Dianne Anderson
In the past few weeks since Santa Ana Councilmember Johnathan Ryan Hernandez began calling for justice surrounding the police-involved killing of his cousin, he continues to receive a steady stream of hate and death threats in an attempt to silence his voice.
He emphasized that a Brown man with a platform for Black and Brown causes is making some people uncomfortable, yet they can expect to hear more of an outcry because he and the community are just getting started.
“When police kill us, it incites the rage, bigotry and the racism that white people have been holding on to since the inception of this country,” he said. “It’s all from Anglo Americans.”
His cousin, Brandon Lopez, 34, was shot and killed by Anaheim police officers on September 28 while Hernandez looked on. He contends that the police knew well in advance that his cousin was experiencing a mental health crisis.
“I made it very clear to them. Not only did I speak with officers on the ground, but I communicated directly with the police via text messages,” he said.
For hours, he said that the police were not concerned, or had listened to his family. They only started responding with some professionalism when they realized that he was an elected official.
Hernandez commended the recent passage of AB 1506 (Deadly Force Accountability Act) spurred by the police murder of George Floyd. The bill took effect in July and now requires all officer-involved shootings of unarmed men to be investigated by the state. As a result, State Attorney General Rob Bonta will also investigate the case.
While the opening of the investigation offers some hope of vindication, he said nothing can explain away why Anaheim police would release a statement that Lopez was armed and driving a stolen car. Lopez was unarmed, and the vehicle taken without permission was his girlfriend’s car.
“How do they validate putting out a grand statement like that? That had to have had a lot to do with how they executed him, now they have to answer backwards,” he said. “This is what more of what we’ve always seen, shoot first and ask questions later.”
One example of the difference in how police officers treat Black and Brown suspects and criminals is the white supremacist and mass murderer, Dylann Roof. Roof, then 21, walked into a Charleston church, shot and killed nine Black churchgoers at a Bible study in 2015. The police bought him a hamburger after his arrest because he said he was hungry.
Mappingpoliceviolence.org cites 878 fatal shootings in the U.S., and there are only ten days of the entire 2021 calendar year that police have not killed anyone. In addition to that, 98.3% of police killings from 2013 to 2020 have resulted in officers not being charged with a crime.
As for Anaheim police chasing down Lopez and crossing jurisdiction into Santa Ana, Hernandez said that the policy, protocol, and the status quo need to be challenged. He said more politicians are not needed, but that the community needs leaders that are willing to change the system from the inside out.
Hernandez points out that he ran for office against a police officer, and won on a platform of governing for truth. Whatever elected officials who do not stand with them, he said that they can be voted out.
“I’m going to be committed to building a bench of champions, of Black and Brown people, that are going to not only run for office, but we are going to win,” he said. “I need to make sure we get people elected next year in multiple cities across California.”
On the Anaheim Police website, they state that Santa Ana had negotiated to convince Lopez to surrender three hours before the Anaheim PD SWAT arrived.
After an hour, Anaheim officers then tear-gassed Lopez, who got out of the vehicle, which is when they shot him. No officers were injured, and Lopez was pronounced dead at the scene.
Michael Gennaco, an attorney with the OIR Group, an Independent Police Auditor for the City of Anaheim, said that members of the public with concerns about the incident or any issues relating to policing in Anaheim may contact the Anaheim Police Review Board, which meets monthly with its next scheduled meeting this Thursday at 6:00 pm.
“We were advised of this officer-involved shooting and rolled out to the scene. Since that time, a team member of ours has attended an internal briefing of this incident. At the conclusion of the investigation and review, we will prepare a public report of the incident,” Gennaco said in an email.
To reach the Anaheim Police Review Board, email at firstname.lastname@example.org.