Westgate shooting suspect’s ‘dark side was coming out,’ prosecutor says
PHOENIX – The suspect in Wednesday night’s shooting at Westgate Entertainment District in Glendale has been thinking about inflicting mass casualties for years and might have done more damage if his gun hadn’t jammed, according to authorities.
Details about accused shooter Armando Hernandez Jr.’s possible motive were revealed during his initial court appearance Thursday and in the probable cause statement compiled by police.
Prosecutor Ed Leiter of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office said in court that the 20-year-old Peoria resident targeted couples while injuring three people and was a self-described “incel,” or involuntary celibate.
“He wanted these people to feel the pain that he feels on a daily basis. He suffers from extreme anger. He’s very open about the fact that he has a dark side, and his dark side was coming out,” Leiter said while making the case that Hernandez’s bail should be set at $1 million, which the judge agreed to.
Leiter said Hernandez livestreamed the incident and sent the video to a woman he was interested in.
Two of the victims apparently were a couple, including a 19-year-old man who suffered a life-threatening chest wound, the prosecutor said.
Hernandez told police he wasn’t trying to kill anybody but wanted to inflict injuries, according to the probable cause statement.
“He wanted to gain some respect, and he felt that he had been bullied in his life,” Glendale Police Sgt. Randy Stewart said during a press briefing.
Leiter said Hernandez became upset earlier Thursday when he couldn’t get dinner at Panda Express for an unexplained reason and grew angrier after going to Westgate to see a movie and finding that theaters haven’t yet reopened from coronavirus-related closure.
Police said Hernandez scouted out the sprawling shopping, dining and entertainment district at Glendale Avenue and the Loop 101 Agua Fria Freeway before returning to his car to drink alcohol and arm himself with an assault rifle and three 30-round magazines.
He told police he moved through the complex firing to intimidate people, according to the probable cause statement.
He allegedly shot a third victim in the leg and told her she was lucky he didn’t kill her, and then his gun malfunctioned.
That’s when police arrived and took the suspect into custody without incident, according to the probable cause statement.
Hernandez was booked on 14 charges, according to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office: five counts of discharging a firearm in city limits, three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, three counts of aggravated assault causing serious physical injury and one count each of criminal damage, recklessly damaging utility property and disorderly conduct with a weapon.
An SRP transformer was hit during the shooting spree, causing the power to go out at Westgate.
Hernandez works in construction and lives with his father and brother, according the public defender representing him Thursday.
Hernandez’s next court appearance, his preliminary hearing, was set for May 28.