Westgate was terrorized with its second shooting within four months last week.
On Jan. 29, 31-year-old Avondale resident Tyler Wilson was gunned down in a Westgate parking lot. The car enthusiast was on his way to an auto show when he became the apparent victim of road rage. His killer has not been caught.
On May 20, three were shot at Westgate in an apparently random attack by a single shooter. The suspect allegedly was armed with an AR-15 rifle that jammed—preventing him from reaching his goal of shooting 10 people, according to a prosecutor.
Police arrested Armando Hernandez, a 20-year-old Peoria resident, and charged him with multiple counts of aggravated assault.
He allegedly told police he identifies as an “incel,” short for involuntarily celibate, and shot people “to gain respect.”
A prosecutor said Hernandez had been planning the “mass casualty” attack for three years.
On May 20, he took a video of himself driving.
“Hello, my name is Armando Junior Hernandez and I’m gonna be the shooter of Westgate 2020,” he said and showed guns in his back seat. “This is to get back at society.”
Later in the video, a woman on the ground begs not to be shot again. An unseen man responds by taunting her.
The next day, a court video showed Hernandez looking far from arrogant, in handcuffs and an orange jail suit as he provided his name and date of birth before a Maricopa County Superior Court judge.
Randy Stewart, a spokesman for the Glendale Police Department, said at a May 21 press conference that police arrived at Westgate within five minutes of 911 calls about the shooting.
Police arrested Hernandez, who did not resist, Stewart said.
The damage caused by Hernandez could have been far worse, prosecutor Ed Leiter of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office said during a May 21 hearing setting $1 million bail for Hernandez.
“He had 90 rounds of ammunition,” Leiter said.
“But for the gun jamming, we would have been looking at many more victims.”
Leiter said a 19-year-old man was in critical condition after Hernandez shot him in the chest. “The hospital was very concerned due to the inability to stop the bleeding,” Leiter said.
Another victim was shot in the leg. “There could be the loss of a limb,” the prosecutor said.
Tiffany Ngalula, a Glendale Police spokeswoman, said no updates would be provided over Memorial Day weekend.
The third victim did not require hospitalization, according to the prosecutor.
Public defender Philip Beatty said in court that Hernandez had no criminal history, works in construction, and lives with his father and brother.
“He should be able to return to the community,” the public defender said.
Leiter disagreed vehemently.
“Hernandez in his (police) interview said he had the desire to cause mass casualties. He wanted to shoot 10 people—this was not a gun accidentally going off,” Leiter said.
“This was Mr. Hernandez expressing his anger at society, the feeling he has been bullied, the feeling that women don’t want him. He is a self-professed incel, which means he is involuntarily celibate.”
The prosecutor said Hernandez, who lived with his father and brother, was looking for couples to shoot at Westgate. “He wants people to feel the pain he has on a daily basis. He is very open about having a dark side, and his dark side was coming out,” Leiter said.
“He’s been contemplating a mass casualty or mass shooting specifically at Westgate for at least three or four years,” the prosecutor added.
Leiter said Hernandez was angered on the day of the shooting by an inability to get dinner at a favorite restaurant and then finding out movie theaters were still closed.
“He has a dramatic inability to control his emotions,” Leiter said.
The prosecutor noted Hernandez took a video of himself during the shooting. “He was not shy during the mass shooting, which he streamed and sent to a girl he was interested in,” Leiter said.
Hernandez was cruel and flippant during the attack, the prosecutor said.
“He said to one of (his victims), ‘Do you want fries with that.’”
During the 10-minute hearing, Hernandez stood with little expression next to the public defender.
Hernandez was returned to jail after the bail hearing. He will be back in court for a preliminary hearing at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, May 28.
One of the witnesses of the shooting was Arizona Sen. Martín Quezada, who tweeted shortly after the shooting:
“I just witnessed an armed terrorist with an AR-15 shoot up Westgate. There are multiple victims. … I’m OK. Lots of shaken up people.”
Glendale Police Chief Chris Briggs said he was proud of the quick work by police.
“In less than 10 minutes, our officers were on the scene and managed to take the suspect into custody,” Briggs said. “This is a prime example of how we were able to work as a team to save lives and reduce the risk of injury to others.”
Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers added, “We want to thank the amazing men and women of the Glendale Police Department and the Glendale Fire Department and the other partnering agencies who responded instantly to the scene. Their extensive training and immediate response allowed them to quickly secure the scene, which prevented additional people from being shot.”