Lynda Espinoza's 13-year-old son was fatally shot by a San Antonio police officer — and she says it took the department five days to call her to let her know her son was dead.
Espinoza said she first found out that an officer killed her son, Andre Hernandez Jr., because she pieced together news articles about a police shooting of a teenager in her neighborhood around the time her son died.
“I really don’t understand what the police are hiding,” she said. “My son was 13 years old. That’s the key. He was a little boy, and he did not deserve to get shot and killed by a police officer.”
Police finally called Espinoza on Tuesday evening after NBC News contacted them and she appeared on local news.
They told her they would allow her to view partial police bodycam video of the encounter Monday morning, she said.
"I don't know what I'm supposed to do when I see it, but I want to see why they shot my son.”
Just two weeks earlier, Espinoza had laid to rest her 16-year-old daughter, Naveah Martinez, who was found shot to death May 10 in a stolen car near the family’s home.
The most recent tragedy for Espinoza unfolded around 1:20 a.m. Friday, when Andre was killed. Police allege that a youth intentionally slammed a stolen car into a police vehicle, causing an officer to shoot into the car to stop him from striking again.
San Antonio Police Capt. Jesse Salame said Friday that officers were responding to gunfire in the area when they spotted a red car that matched the description of a vehicle seen by the shooting. When police approached the car, driven by Andre and carrying two other teens, the boy threw it into reverse and struck another patrol car behind him, he said.
Fearing officers would be struck again, an officer from the first patrol car fired once into the fleeing vehicle, killing the boy, police said.
After he was shot, the youth stepped out of the car to surrender, police said. He was treated by paramedics and taken to a nearby hospital, where he died, they said.
Police said that the officer involved in the shooting has been placed on administrative duty until further notice and that no officers or passengers in the car were injured.
San Antonio police have not publicly identified the victim, saying in a statement that “because of his age, we are prohibited by law in releasing the suspect’s name, and any video/reports associated with this suspect/incident.” But they said Wednesday morning that the "suspect’s mother has been contacted and we are working with her to communicate the next steps of the investigative process."
Espinoza said "it was not justified" that they took five days to contact her after the shooting.
She said that the hospital informed her that her son had been shot but that she was given only minimal time to view him before he was “put in a body bag and taken away.” She still has not received any medical reports or paperwork.
After Espinoza read reports that police had killed a 13-year-old, she put two and two together, prompting her to visit the site of his death Friday.
After she talked to an eyewitness, Espinoza said, the police account “didn’t add up.”
A neighbor who livestreamed the aftermath of the shooting on Facebook said he saw police pulling the boy from the vehicle, according to the San Antonio Express-News.
“Instead of trying to apply pressure, he’s pulling him out, and he’s still trying to search him,” Jesse Hernandez, who saw the incident, told the newspaper and Andre’s mother.
“The little boy was like: ‘Not so rough, officer, please. I’m in pain,” he said. “‘Don’t be so rough. It hurts, officer.’”
The police kept telling the boy to “stop moving” and “let us help you,” the Express-News reported. Hernandez told the newspaper that he did not see blood from the wound because of the boy’s clothes and that he saw “little to no damage to the front of the car,” it reported.
He said his video was deleted from Facebook shortly after he posted it, according to the Express-News. NBC News has not seen the video.
Espinoza also said the witness told her that officers delayed calling an ambulance and that her son was handcuffed after he was shot — a point rebutted by police, who said the boy was not handcuffed until he was placed on the EMS stretcher.
Andre died down the street from where his sister was killed, Espinoza said.
She said Andre that had become reclusive and that he left home after his sister’s funeral on May 20, which was also the last time she saw him. She reported him to authorities as a runaway but was later told by his friends that he was staying with them, she said.
“I’m not pretending my son was an angel, you know — he was dealing with the loss of his sister already. After my daughter passed, he wasn’t coming home and started getting mixed up.”
“He still deserves justice.”
Ebonie Hernandez, Hernandez’s aunt, who traveled to San Antonio from Chicago to attend her niece’s funeral, said she saw her nephew change in the days after his sister’s death.
“When I visited seven months ago, we had a wonderful time watching movies together. He was a good kid,” she said. “It’s just, you know, kids get mixed up, and he was grieving. They’re young, they get in a new crowd, and instead of being the leader that he was, he decided to follow other kids, and he got caught up in a bad situation.”