Family say ‘police are above the law’ after judge refused to indict officer who shot boy driving a stolen car
Officer Stephen Ramos of the San Antonio police Dept. was not indicted for shooting Andre ‘AJ’ Hernandez, 13, on June 3
Hernandez was shot by officer Stephen Ramos, who was responding with a partner to reports of gunfire involving the care
Hernandez at the wheels of a hijacked Toyota Corolla was fatally shot after ramming stolen car into police cruiser with the officers inside
Records show officer Stephen Ramos was also not indicted for shooting another man just 15 months earlier
AJ Hernandez, 13, was shot dead in a stolen car just three weeks after his sister Naveah Martinez was killed
Martinez, 16,was also fatally shot in a stolen car just blocks away from the family’s home
After the deaths of the two older kids, their mother, Lynda Espinoza, had her four younger daughters, ages 6 to 9, removed from the home
The family of a teenage alleged carjacker, shot and killed by a member of the San Antonio police department are protesting the the clean bill of health a grand jury granted the cop who shot their son. Footage shows the moment the teenage boy was fatally shot by police after he hijacked a car and hit into the police cruiser with the responding officers sitting inside.
The grand jury declined to bring criminal charges against officer Stephen Ramos, who fired the fatal shot during the June 3 chase.
13-year-old Andre ‘AJ’ Hernandez was at the wheels of a ‘jacked’ [stolen], Toyota Corolla and threw the car in reverse, hitting the police officers after they approached on June 3, 2022. Newly released clips from the fateful night now show the teen driver being shot by cops.
Hernandez was shot by officer Ramos, who was responding with a partner to reports of gunfire involving the red vehicle. He fired once, wounding Hernandez in the abdomen. This shot turned out to be fatal.
It was later revealed that officer Ramos, months before shooting Hernandez, was embroiled in another police involved fatal shooting of a civilian victim.
In March of 2021, Ramos shot 57-year-old John Pena Montez, after responding to reports of a man with a knife breaking into a home and threatening to kill himself in an argument with his common-law wife.
Following the release of the clip, Hernandez’s family claims that there was no way the car could’ve been going fast enough to obscure a clear visual of the occupants, arguing that the officers would have been able to see there were kids in the car.
Police have claimed throughout that AJ Hernandez was driving a stolen Toyota Corolla at the time and threw the stolen car in reverse and struck the pursuing police cruisers, endangering the lives of the officers, after they approached on June 3.
The footage shows Ramos’ partner, who was only identified as ‘Espinoza’, having to pull his leg back in the vehicle before Hernandez rammed into them. San Antonio police have claimed the underage driver put officer Espinoza’s life in danger.
Ramos, Espinoza and a third officer who was only identified as ‘Officer Claire,’ were called to the scene at 1:18 a.m. the morning of June 3.
They approach the scene at 1:21 a.m. on War Cloud Street. At 1:22 a.m., Espinoza starts to leave the driver’s side of the vehicle, as Ramos warns Espinoza: ‘Don’t let him ram you!’
Espinoza opens the driver’s side door, puts his left leg outside the doorstop and shouts at the kids: ‘Let me see your hands!’
He then pulls his left leg back into the car as the door slams shut and the Corolla driven by Hernandez hits the police vehicle.
Ramos wrote in a report that: ‘At this time, I believed the driver of the vehicle was using his vehicle as a deadly weapon to attempt to kill Officer Espinoza. I fired one shot at the driver of the vehicle to stop the threat to Officer Espinoza.’
Seconds later, Ramos gets out of the passenger side, takes out his weapon and fires a round, notifying dispatch.
Hernandez steps out of the car, says ‘I’m shot, sir’ and falls to the ground. He was eventually taken to a hospital and pronounced dead.
Hernandez was behind the wheel of a car reported as stolen with two other teenagers as passengers – a female, 16, and a male, 15. They weren’t injured.
One of other teenagers who were passengers in the car then begs Ramos to call Hernandez’s family: ‘Grab my phone! May you please grab my phone, sir. Please call his family! Sir!’.
A statement from Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales’ office said: ‘It was reasonable for Officer Ramos to believe that Officer Espinoza was standing outside of his vehicle and was therefore being threatened with deadly force by the red Toyota as it accelerated towards him.’
The DA’s office added that Ramos then fired in order to protect Espinoza from ‘unjustified harm.’
The county’s report is based off of statements as well as dashboard cameras from the car Ramos and Espinoza were using as well as Espinoza’s body camera. Ramos’ body camera was not used and the county did not explain why.
However, Hernandez’s family and attorney Lee Merritt have argued that the car was never moving fast enough to truly harm Espinoza.
They also claim that anyone could have seen that the car they’d stolen was full of Hernandez and two other children, according to the San Antonio Express News.
‘We’re talking about a 13-year-old boy who was killed by police,’ his mother, Lynda Espinoza – no apparent relation to the unidentified officer – said in a protest just after the shooting.
Espinoza’s 13-year-old son AJ Hernandez was shot dead in a stolen car just three weeks after her 16-year-old sister Naveah Martinez, was also fatally shot in a stolen car just blocks away from the family’s home, according to Oxygen.
After the deaths of the two older kids, her four younger daughters, ages 6 to 9, were removed from the home.
Hernandez’s mother said that he had become so grief stricken that he’d left the home.
‘I just [reported], him as a runaway because he didn’t want to come with me, didn’t want to listen,’ Lynda Espinoza said. ‘So, I did what a mother was supposed to do.’
Even back then, the family wanted people to see her son’s humanity despite what had occurred.
‘He was a 13-year-old little boy grieving the loss of his sister, and they were really close,’ AJ’s aunt Stephanie Martinez said. ‘He was still a baby and hadn’t even really started his life.’
‘I want people to know don’t always believe what you hear and read, wait for the facts to come out … wait for the truth to come out before you judge my nephew. Hopefully, once you hear the truth, you guys will be able to support us and support the family to get justice for my nephew.’
‘Our system of justice is based on citizen input, yet nothing can repair the pain and loss that AJ Hernandez’s family has endured. A young boy was tragically lost on that day and we know that no mother should ever have to bury their child,’ said Criminal District Attorney Gonzales in a statement.
This is also not the first time Officer Stephen Ramos has been involved in a fatal shooting.
In March of 2021, Ramos responded to reports of a man – 57-year-old John Pena Montez – with a knife breaking into a home and threatening to kill himself in an argument with his common-law wife.
Ramos’ partner failed to subdue Montez using a stun gun twice. A police report then says Montez ‘lunged’ and swung a knife at the officers, though family members dispute this.
The Montez family who disputes the police account described officer Ramos as a ‘trigger-happy hothead.’
Critics point out that Ramos has not been indicted for either the first or second civilian death where he did the shooting.
The officer then fired at Montez, killing him. But Debra Montez Felder, Montez’s sister, completely disputes this account after watching body camera footage.
‘As soon as I saw it, I told them this was unjustified and unwarranted,’ she said.
‘He was just standing there at the door. There was no reason for you to shoot him.’
Felder says that Ramos has a reputation for firing his gun when it’s not necessarily needed.
‘SAPD and the DA’s office were on notice that this guy was a hothead, trigger-happy,’ she told NBC News. ‘You were aware of it even before the killing of this 13-year-old kid.’
She also said that her brother was a veteran who was going through a ‘mental health crisis’ at the time. His wife called the police and a local hospital out of fear he would hurt himself.
Felder said that the shooting of Hernandez enraged her even further and has pushed her campaign to have the body camera footage released publicly.
‘I’m angry because this kid didn’t deserve that,’ she said.
‘SAPD knew this guy emotionally can’t control himself, he cannot control himself, and it’s just unreal.’
A month after Hernandez was shot, a grand jury cleared officer Ramos of charges in the shooting of Montez. Ramos who had been placed on administrative leave after the March 2021 shooting, returned to full duty by September after an Internal Affairs investigation.
The footage from that earlier shooting remains unreleased.
It is unclear what Ramos’ current status is with the department. The announcement by the district attorney’s office also says that grand jury’s decision concludes the investigation into the shooting.