Archives for category: Fullerton City Council
Seals? Don’t know anything about seals, but check out these puppies!

Matthew Leslie


UPDATE: Filings for the Sargeant campaign, including a Form 460 documenting contributions and expenditures, now appear on the City of Fullerton’s website:

City Council candidate Chuck Sargeant sent a campaign mailer that illegally includes an image of Fullerton’s City Seal to residents of District 2, where he is running for office. Sargeant evidently doesn’t know or doesn’t care that individuals or organizations are legally prohibited from using official government seals for private purposes.

Use of the City Seal is explicitly forbidden in the city’s municipal code for anything other than official city business.

Clear enough for anyone who bothers to read it.

Fullerton Municipal Code, Ordinance 2543: “It is unlawful for any person to make or use the seal of the City, or reproduction, thereof, for any purpose other than for the official business of the City, its Council, officers or departments.”

Printing a City Seal on a campaign mailer gives recipients the false impression that it is an official correspondence from the City of Fullerton, giving the candidate an unfair advantage over competitors.

Sargeant already ran for City Council four years ago, finishing far back in a crowded field of 12 candidates. Like that campaign, this current one doesn’t seem to have made any filings with the Fair Political Practices Commission other than a basic 410 filing establishing his campaign committee. Periodic filings are required for any candidate raising or spending over $ 2,000 for a campaign during a calendar year. Violators of this state code face fines for failing to make campaign filings on time, or not making them at all.

Chuck Sargeant will face three other candidates in this first election held specifically for a council seat in District 2. Voters in that district would we well advised to make sure whomever they support understands local laws.

Matthew Leslie

(This story originally appeared in August, 2020 edition of the Fullerton Observer.)

Family members of a Fullerton man shot to death by police in May are considering filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the City. A Fullerton police officer fired 2 shots into Hector Hernandez, 34, killing him in front of his residence on the 3600 block of West Ave. on May 27 at approximately 10:13 p.m.

Relatives had earlier called 911, reporting that an intoxicated Hernandez was involved in a physical altercation with his stepsons in his home before firing a gun. Police later reported that “it was relayed” that Hernandez had assaulted his girlfriend on the way home from a family party before and when they arrived at home. Later confronted by Fullerton police officers, Hernandez stabbed a police dog while trying to fend it off before being fatally shot by the dog’s FPD K9 officer/handler.

Bodycam footage from the police shooting of Hector Hernandez.

It was the second fatal shooting by Fullerton police officers that month.

The family is represented by the law firm of Garo Mardirossian and Associates, who also represented the father of Kelly Thomas, who was beaten until brain dead by Fullerton police in 2011, and other clients with complaints against law enforcement officers. The Los Angeles-based attorney contends that Hernandez was trying to comply with police commands at the time of his killing and did not represent a threat to anyone.

Fullerton police initially released a minimum of information about the shooting, citing an investigation by the office of Orange County’s District Attorney, which is standard in such cases. The FPD press release in May included an image of a foldable knife recovered at the scene, but not the gun Hernandez is alleged to have fired. According to Mardirossian, Hernandez carried the knife during his normal course of work in a U-Haul warehouse. Police later released an image of a handgun reported to have been recovered from the scene.

A month after the shooting, the Fullerton Police Department released a Critical Incident Community video, which can be found on Youtube (HERE). Introduced and narrated by Chief Robert Dunn and Lt. Jon Radus, the Critical Incident video follows a standard format instituted by the department to comply with state law requiring the release of video and audio of police involved shootings. The video presents audio of 911 calls as well as video and audio from body cameras worn by officers.

Mardirossian has complained that the department has only released some of the video, although they are required by law to release all of it no later than 45 days after the date of the incident. He first contacted Fullerton police on July 14 after the 45-day period expired, requesting all video and audio, but was told the next day by police that the department needed more time to redact files for privacy reasons. By July 28, FPD, according to Public Information Officer Sgt. Eric Bridges, was “working with our City Attorney’s Office to respond to that request as quickly as possible.”

Fullerton police declined to comment on the possible lawsuit and referred questions about the shooting to the office of the OC District Attorney. A neighbor of Hernandez, Bob Brown, said investigators from the D.A. visited his house during the second week of July.

The family is also requesting the official autopsy report from the County coroner because they want to know the location of the entrance wounds from the gunshots that killed Hernandez as he lay on his driveway.

Mardirossian described Hector Hernandez as a man loved by his neighbors, employers, and co-workers. He said that the “neighborhood was very, very upset” by the killing. Six neighbors spoke during the open public comments period of the meeting of the Fullerton City Council on July 21. Bob Brown said he knew Hernandez for 18 years, and described him as someone who would “give you his last dollar if you needed it.” He later claimed that it was Hernandez who was assaulted by the stepsons when he returned from a party, and Hernandez brandished a knife to drive them out of the house.

Brown said at the council meeting that he witnessed the shooting from no more than 40 feet away. He criticized the police for exhibiting “no leadership or coordination on the scene that night,” and questioned why the K9 officer deployed his dog to attack when Hernandez had his arms in the air, as police had commanded him to do.

In the FPD Critical Incident video, which has been viewed over 5,200 times on Youtube, Hector Hernandez can indeed be seen with his hands raised before the veteran police dog, Rotar, is released. His hands stay in the air until the dog approaches, at which point he lowers his right hand, which the police claim held a knife, indicated in the Critical Incident video by a police-added red arrow graphic. A small grey or silver object can be seen in his hand. Brown and Mardirossian say that Hernandez only lowered his arm to fend off an attack by Rotar, who he stabbed as the dog attacked him.

Bob Brown and other neighbors of Hernandez accuse the police of needlessly escalating the situation with the deployment of Rotar, and by multiple officers shouting commands, which Brown says intimidated Hernandez.

Yolanda Escobido, another neighbor, made the second 911 call heard in the Critical Incident video released by FPD. Speaking before the City Council on July 21, she said, “I regret making that call. If I had known that the Fullerton Police Department was going to react the way they did, I would have never made that phone call.” She called for an independent investigation, describing the situation that night as “chaotic,” and criticizing police for being unprofessional for not deescalating the situation. “[On the video] All you hear is screaming and yelling.”

Yolanda Escobido told Fullerton City Council she regrets calling 911, given the outcome of what happened.

Two 911 calls were placed that night, the first from inside the house by Hernandez’s relatives, the second by Ms. Escobido. Both recordings are incorporated into the police department’s Critical Incident video. During the first call at least one gunshot can be heard in the background.

Multiple police units were contacted by the dispatcher and responded to the scene within minutes. The K9 officer handling Rotar, the police dog, was the first officer to arrive on the scene that night. According to police, he was there for several minutes before Hernandez exited his house.

Separate residential surveillance footage included in the Critical Incident video shows several individuals running from the residence, followed by Hernandez walking slowly in the same direction. A red arrow pointing at his hand and word “gun” have been added to the video by FPD, but the resolution is not sharp enough to clearly distinguish a gun in his hand. Mardirossian, the lawyer, said that Hernandez re-entered the house to stow the gun there, then exited again out the front door.

Bodycam video from the scene records multiple officers issuing commands, including for Hernandez to keep his hands up. According to police “he initially complied,” but then began to walk backwards toward his front door. Supporters say he did so to place himself in the brightest lit area of his driveway so that he would be better visible to police. At the time, police say that they had reason to believe a child was inside the residence. Rotar was “deployed” by his K9 handler to “prevent Mr. Hernandez from re-entering the residence,” according to the Critical Incident video narration.

Video from the K9 officer’s bodycam shows an agitated Rotar barking and straining at his leash prior to his deployment. It is even unclear whether the dog was released by the officer or broke from his grip. FPD’s Sgt. Bridges declined to comment on the suggestion that the officer might have lost control of the dog, referring that question to the D.A. Once free, Rotar can be seen running down the sidewalk away from the residence as the K9 officer repeatedly calls “here!” to direct him instead to Hernandez, who standing in front of his house. Mardirossian suggested that Rotar initially ran the wrong direction because he didn’t perceive Hernandez to be a suspect.

Rotar’s charge at Hernandez and the ensuing shooting is seen from two different bodycam views in the police Critical Incident video. Hernandez can be seen standing with his hands in the air, as the dog approaches him. “Hands up” commands can be heard, but as officers approach Hernandez he lowers his right hand to waist level. At this point, according to police, Rotar “began to apprehend Mr. Hernandez, and Mr. Hernandez fell to the ground.” And then, “at some point Mr. Hernandez produced a knife and an officer involved shooting occurred.”

The K9 officer’s own upraised gun in the foreground of the video footage partially obscures the view of Rotar pulling Hernandez to the ground. The K9 officer shouted, “Hey let me see your” and then, in evident surprise, “Hey!” again. At this point, Hernandez is on the ground trying to fend off Rotar, who can be heard to suddenly yelp. The K9 officer then fires twice at Hernandez from close range, shouting, “He’s got a knife!” Hernandez can be heard groaning after the first shot. He rolls over on to his stomach after the second shot. The shadows of several officers can be seen against the house behind the unmoving Hernandez as several continue to shout, “Let me see your hands.”

Calling “watch out” several times, the K9 officer pulls Rotar off Hernandez. The dog tears the prone man’s shirt as he is dragged away by his handler. In the other officer bodycam footage included in the Critical Incident video, the K9 officer can be heard to say about Rotar that, “He was stabbed and he started going after me.” According to police, shortly after the shooting, officers saw blood on Rotar, and, “It was learned that Mr. Hernandez had stabbed K9 Rotar near his shoulder blades.” Rotar was taken to a nearby emergency pet hospital where he was treated.

According to police, officers rendered medical aid following the shooting. Paramedics can be seen in the video performing chest compressions. According to police, Hernandez was “transported to a local hospital, where he passed away.”

Mardirossian asserts that Hernandez was “absolutely” shot because he had stabbed Rotar, and that officers on the scene had already made a determination that he wasn’t carrying a gun. He, and others, question why non-lethal weapons like bean bag rounds, rubber bullets, or tasers weren’t tried before shooting Hernandez dead from close range, and why Rotar was deployed in the first place when Hernandez was complying with the commands of officers.

During the same meeting of the City Council on July 21, Rotar was officially retired, having served with police since 2013, a “common service period,” according to FPD’s Sgt. Eric Bridges. Mardirossian called it “adding insult to injury” to accord Rotar “hero status,” questioning the seriousness of the stab wound and the necessity to shoot and kill Hernandez, who, he said, had every right to defend himself against the dog’s attack. Police dogs, he said, are “trained attack tools,” bred for that purpose, and it is a “danger to have such a dog in the community.”

Bob Brown, the neighbor who witnessed the killing, questions whether it is FPD policy to send dogs to attack suspects whose hands are raised in the air, shoot suspects who are in a fetal position on the ground while being attacked by a police dog, and “scream chaotically the same command over and over to create a confusing and intimidating situation” for a person trying to surrender. Brown also contends that the K9 officer shot Hernandez because Hernandez stabbed his dog in self-defense.

Santiago Sanchez, a neighbor who did not witness the killing, also spoke before the City Council on July 21. Sanchez said he looked up to Hernandez who had taught him how to be a father. “I miss him and I pray for justice for what happened to him. It wasn’t right. I still hurt to this day.”

Santiago Sanchez, a neighbor who did not witness the killing, speaks before the City Council on July 21.


Go ahead, figure it out for yourself.

Matthew Leslie

On Friday, May 22, with virtually no warning, the City of Fullerton closed a short block of West Wilshire Avenue to vehicular traffic, including bicycles, to facilitate a new outdoor dining area in the middle of a public street. Signs and barricades close the street to cars, and, specifically, bicycles, even though the area of the closed street is a segment of the city’s official Wilshire Bicycle Boulevard. According to City Manager Ken Domer, the closure is “tentatively scheduled through November 2nd.”

The closure was attributed by city staff to a desire by the Fullerton City Council for amended outdoor dining plans that would allow restaurants to utilize additional city property for expanded seating areas large enough to accommodate social distancing guidelines. But, according to City Manager Domer, “No specific street or public right of way locations were designated by the City Council.“ Domer himself authorized the closure, “not specifically to close it to bicycles,” but for outdoor dining because of the area’s high concentration of restaurants.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led the state to issue strict guidelines for how restaurants may open, including social distancing requirements that make it difficult to seat enough patrons in side their establishments to make opening worthwhile financially. The city’s solution is to allow restaurants to utilized public spaces like sidewalks and parking lots for outdoor dining.

Orange directional detour signs posted on either side of Harbor Blvd. direct  bicyclists north or south on Harbor, not the safest route for many cyclists. Asked if the city recommended that riders use Harbor Blvd. as a detour route, Domer responded “All bicyclists should always use caution on any street they choose to use.”

In response to concerns about the closure, Public Works Director Meg McWade wrote “The intent of the closure is not to hurt the bicycling community.  We are trying to work as quickly as possible to help save the downtown businesses due to Covid impacts – and closing Wilshire quickly is an attempt to do so.” After consulting a map, another city staff member suggested that cyclists use Pomona Ave. east of Harbor, but that isn’t where the detour signs are located.


Your tax dollars at work creating confusion.

Domer confirmed that the city’s Active Transportation Committee (formerly the Bicycle Users Subcommittee), which has not met since February, was not consulted about the street closure. At least one of its members, Prof. Vince Buck, has expressed concerns with the closure, writing to Domer that he learned about it only from reading it in the Fullerton Observer.

The Wilshire Bicycle Boulevard begins at the 600 block of West Wilshire, at Woods Ave., east of Euclid Ave., and extends east over two miles to Annin Ave., just west of Acacia, and is a central feature of Fullerton’s Bicycle Master Plan. It connects to other streets officially designated and signed as bike routes, providing safer bicycle passage laterally across most of the city without riders having to use major traffic thoroughfares.

The $ 3.2 million boulevard project was years in planning, and funded primarily with a federal grant through the Orange County Transportation Agency (OCTA), with just $ 300,000 from the City of Fullerton for street paving along the route. Fullerton’s closure of even a small portion of the street calls into question whether the city could be accused of misusing the funds awarded to it by OCTA. The grant funded planning for the boulevard, as well as replacing intersection stop signs with permanent traffic roundabouts, adding directional bicycle “sharrow” markings to the street pavement, and posting permanent signs advising that bicycles may use full traffic lanes on the two lane street.

Under ordinary circumstances, the entire block of East Wilshire between Harbor Blvd. and Pomona Ave. is closed to traffic nearly all Thursday evenings between the months of April and November for the Downtown Fullerton Market, but even then cyclists can walk their bikes through the market, and there is frequently bicycle parking provided near the Fullerton Museum’s beer garden, along with permanent bike racks in the area.

In response to questions raised about the Bicycle Boulevard closure days after it went into effect, Domer indicated that he would have the “no bikes” signs removed, and that bicyclists would be allowed to walk their bicycles through the closed area. Nearly two weeks later, the “no bikes” signs remain.


Cyclists now just ride on the sidewalk, posing a danger to pedestrians.

Although removing the signs might accommodate causal cyclists, it runs counter to the boulevard’s purpose of providing an uninterrupted route for commuters and other riders. A center lane for bicycling, which would restore continuity to the route, is not provided, according to Domer for the safety of pedestrians and diners. Absurdly, what could easily be a center lane, is now a space filled with potted trees in what appears to be a feeble effort to beautify a dining area located in the middle of a street. Cyclists encountering the barricades can easily be observed simply riding their bikes around the closure signs and on the sidewalk instead of in the street, making redundant the city’s excuse that a bicycle lane would endanger pedestrians.

The city needs to rectify the confusing and dangerous situation it created by opening the street back up to cycling now. While other cities are opening their streets up to cycling and pedestrians, Fullerton has closed one off with ugly orange barricades and metal signs. Restore the Bicycle Boulevard with a central travel lane now, or get rid of the tables and potted trees and make turn it back into a public street again.

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