The family of a man accused of shooting and killing an unarmed burglary suspect says they've been receiving threats, threats they believe are coming from the victim's family. And on Friday afternoon, a threat happened as the two sides were sitting in the very same courtroom.
Ricardo Hernandez appeared briefly in court where he's facing charges of shooting and killing someone suspected of being responsible for a series of auto break-ins at San Jose's Summer Breeze apartments. Hernandez worked there as a custodian and handyman.
The victim was 30-year-old Christopher Soriano. Hernandez was trying to hold him for police.
Hernandez's family and friends consider him a hero for helping to stop a crime wave. They said police response is slow and the apartment complex didn't have its own security. It appears a private security firm is now watching the apartment complex.
"Why now is the owner providing security at this complex when we were told they couldn't afford it," said family spokesperson Gina Gates. "But now they can afford it? Had they been pro-active, this would never have happened."
The shooting may have created friction between the families. When asked if the Hernandez family has been getting threats, Gates said yes.
The families sat on separate sides of the courtroom.
Just as the courtroom session was ending, somebody came out of the courtroom saying someone was threatened inside. So all of a sudden, the deputies came racing out of the building trying to figure out what is going on.
The Hernandez family quickly disappeared while the victim's family, the Soriano's, stayed to vent their anger. The victim's family denied a threat was made.
"How can you say somebody's a hero when he takes the law into his own hands?" asked the victim's mother, Glenda Soriano. "He had an illegal gun for god's sake, and he killed a man, a father of five children, took my son away from me."
The district attorney's office is proceeding to prosecute Hernandez. It issued a statement saying, "…at the time of the shooting Mr. Hernandez had no legal excuse or justification for using deadly force on an unarmed man."
His family is looking for leniency, "I think he deserves a second chance," said former sister-in-law Paulina Martinez.
Hernandez is being held in county jail, so far unable to post one million dollars bail. He's due back in court in a month.