3 NJ men to stand trial in shooting that killed Philadelphia police officer
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A judge has ordered three New Jersey men to stand trial on most charges in an airport parking garage shooting in October that killed one Philadelphia police officer and wounded another.
Municipal Court Judge David Shuter ruled last week that Yobranny Martinez-Fernandez, 18, of Camden, must stand trial on charges of murder and attempted murder and related offenses, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Prosecutors have alleged that he fired the shots that killed the officer.
Alexander Batista-Polanco, 21, of Camden and Hendrick Peña-Fernandez, 21, of Pennsauken, face trial on charges including second-degree murder of a law enforcement officer.
An attempted murder charge in the shooting of the other officer was dropped against both men. Robbery charges against all three were also dropped.
Prosecutors cited video footage, social media posts, and cell phone records as evidence that the trio stole a vehicle and used it days later to travel to the airport garage, where the two officers foiled another car theft.
Defense attorneys argued that none of the hours’ worth of evidence presented showed that their clients were at the airport at the time. Robert Gamburg, Peña-Fernandez’s attorney, said there was “absolutely nothing that carries the commonwealth’s burden.”
Defense attorneys declined comment after the hearing, the newspaper reported.
Officers Richard Mendez and Raul Ortiz were about to begin their shift at around 11 p.m. on Oct. 12 when they heard breaking glass and saw several people breaking into a car in the parking lot at Philadelphia International Airport, police said. A confrontation ensued, and the two officers and one of the suspects were shot.
Mendez, 50, who had been on the force for more than two decades, was shot four times and pronounced dead at a hospital. His handcuffs were placed on Martinez Fernandez at the time of the suspect’s arrest, a symbolic practice used when officers are killed. Ortiz, a 20-year veteran of the force, was shot once in the arm and was treated at a hospital.
The suspects fled in an SUV reported stolen a week earlier that was later seen at a hospital Thursday dropping off 18-year-old Jesus Herman Madera Duran, who had been shot in the chest, abdomen and left arm. He was later pronounced dead. Authorities have said they believe Duran was shot by the same person who shot the two officers.
Deputy Commissioner Frank Vanore said earlier that police were pursuing others who aided the suspects or tried to obstruct the investigation. He cited the burning of the vehicle in a parking lot in Cranbury, New Jersey, people who rented hotel rooms but weren't the ones staying there, and "people who knew where people were and didn’t tell us.”
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