Four sentenced for beating of police officer

Police Officer Eric Hernandez

Justice was finally dished out to four men who beat an off-duty Bronx police officer, leading up to his death outside of a White Castle restaurant.

Eric Hernandez, who was assigned to the 52nd Precinct, was punched and kicked at a White Castle at 1831 Webster Avenue during the early morning hours of Saturday, January 26, 2006.

After staggering out of the restaurant following the beating, Hernandez drew his off-duty revolver while confronting a bystander whom he mistakenly believed to be one of the people who attacked him.

Police officers responding to the scene observed Hernandez, wearing civilian clothes, holding a gun. The officers ordered Hernandez to drop the weapon and shot him when he failed to comply. According to the medical examiner, Hernandez died as a result of the gunshot wounds.

None of the four defendants were charged with any criminal liability for the death of Hernandez.

 “While the people who beat and kicked Officer Hernandez may be morally responsible for his death, as a matter of law, they cannot be held responsible for this tragic loss of life,” said Bronx D.A. Robert Johnson, at the close of the investigation of the events leading up to the shooting.

But State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Dawson, who labeled the attacks “cruel, unjustified and ferocious” sentenced the four  men on Wednesday, May 28, for their involvement in the initial attack on the off-duty officer.

Edwin Rivera, 27, of 1295 Spotford Avenue, is said to have instigated the attack, and received 10 years in prison for gang assault in the 1st degree.

Nelson Rodriquez, 28, of 621 Manida Street, pled guilty to one count of attempted gang assault in the 1st degree, and was sentenced to six years in prison.

Alexander Fontanez, 25, of 1168 Sherman Avenue and Jonathan Alaya, 21, 1150 Garrison Avenue were also sentenced to five years in prison. 

The sentence the four men received was part of a plea-bargaining arrangement with the D.A.’s office.

All four defendants waived their right to appeal their convictions and will be subject to an additional five years of post-release supervision after completing their sentences.

The defendants admitted that they had acted “with intent to cause serious physical injury to Eric Hernandez.”

A fifth defendant, Victor Mercado, 17, 1212 Seneca Avenue, pled guilty earlier this month to one count of gang assault in the 1st degree and will be sentenced as a youthful offender, to a term of 1 and 1/3 to 4 years imprisonment on Thursday, June 5. Mercado was 16-years-old when the crime occurred.

A sixth defendant charged with gang assault, Daryl Massey, 25, of 1230 Boston Road, is still awaiting trial.

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