Jan. 18, 2013 Mercury News
SAN JOSE -- Supporters rallied Friday to urge prosecutors to drop a murder charge against a San Jose man who shot and killed an alleged burglar in a vigilante act that made him a folk hero to residents frustrated with a shrinking police response to lower-level crimes.
A Change.org petition was launched by family and friends of Luis Ricardo Hernandez, 26, who is being held in Santa Clara County Jail on $1 million bail in the death of 36-year-old Christopher Soriano of San Jose.
Hernandez was a maintenance worker at the Summer Breeze apartments when on Dec. 31 he and a supervisor reportedly tried to perform a citizen's arrest on Soriano, who they suspected of burglarizing cars
at the complex. In an ensuing physical confrontation, police said, Hernandez shot Soriano, who later died.
The online petition garnered more than 500 signatures as of Friday. Family spokesman Gina Gates said the defendant, who on Friday postponed a plea entry, was trying to thwart a series of crimes given short shrift by a budget-starved police force. He is due back in court Feb. 15.
"Ricardo is not the pebble in the pond. He's part of the wave it caused," Gates said.
Authorities see things much differently, with police admonishing vigilantism even in lean staffing times and prosecutors filing a murder charge.
"We acknowledge that it may take us a while to get to a property crime like an auto burglary depending on what else is going on in the city," said outgoing police Chief Chris Moore in a recent interview. "I'm somewhat disappointed that people are treating this person as a folk hero. In my opinion, he's not. I understand the frustration. But that doesn't give someone the right to take a gun out and take the law into their own hands."