Family remembers 13-year-old boy killed by police, demands release of body-cam footage

The family of a 13-year-old boy killed in a confrontation with police last week was joined by local activists Thursday demanding that police release all footage of the incident.

Wearing white shirts emblazoned with an image of Andre “AJ” Hernandez, his family gathered in the afternoon shadow of the Public Safety Headquarters downtown.

Ananda Tomas, executive director of the police reform group ACT4SA, addressed demonstrators via bullhorn, saying that Andre’s life was “callously” taken by police – and that he was mourning the loss of his sister, Naveah Martinez, in the days before his death.

Tomas said he “made a simple mistake and had his life stolen from him.”

The San Antonio Police Department has said Andre was driving a stolen car around 1 am June 3 in the 5100 block of War Cloud Drive on the Southwest Side when police responded to reports of shots fired in the area.

While police signaled to Andre to pull the car over – he was driving a red Toyota Corolla – the teenager crashed it into the driver’s side door of a patrol vehicle as an officer pulled his leg back inside, police officials have said, citing body-cam footage.

A second officer, whom police say was concerned for the safety of his colleague, then fired a single shot at the Corolla, fatally wounding Andre. Officers treated the teen at the scene until EMS arrived to take him to University Hospital, where he later died.

Two other teenagers in the car, a 16-year-old girl and a 15-year-old boy, were uninjured. The officer who fired the shot has served three years with the department. He has been placed on administrative duty until further notice.

Family members said police have agreed to allow them to see body-cam footage from one of the officers at the scene. But family and activists were demanding more Thursday.

“We’re talking about a 13-year-old boy who was killed by police,” his mother, Lynda Espinoza, said firmly.

Andre’s aunt, Stephanie Martinez, 38, described Andre – the middle child of his nine siblings – as a playful teen who was always smiling.

His mother said he often volunteered to help feed the homeless and offer them blankets during cold weather.

“He said, ‘When I grow up, I’m going to buy you a big house one day,’ his mother recalled. “My kids are all very attached to me.”

Her daughter, Naveah Martinez, was found shot to death on May 10 outside a residence in the 5100 block of War Horse Drive.

“I have no justice for both of them,” Espinoza said of her children.

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services has removed Espinoza’s other children from her home. Mary Walker, a TDFPS spokeswoman, said the children were taken into care by Child Protective Service investigations staff.

Family members shouted the name of the officer who fired the shot, but police had not identified him as of Thursday afternoon.

The crowd of about 35 people approached the headquarters, staring through the glass doors into the lobby. The group also shouted at officers who could be seen staring down from the windows above.

Tomas called on the SAPD to make public the body-cam footage of moments leading up to the officer’s fatal shot.

San Antonio police have said that they can not release the footage because Andre was a minor. The department does not release the names or video recordings of suspects under 18.

“That’s just another scapegoat,” Tomas said, adding that other agencies have released footage involving juveniles.

She said the department could release the body-cam recording after pixelating Andre’s face, as required by state law.

She demanded that SAPD release the footage to debunk what she called the “false narrative” from police that Andre damaged the police vehicle when he crashed into it. Tomas also cited an SAPD policy that states that officers should not shoot into a moving vehicle unless someone’s life is in danger.

“To this day, there is a question as to whether anyone’s life was in danger besides AJ’s or those teenagers in the vehicle,” Tomas said.

jbeltran@express-news.net

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