Protest held as family of missing student demands answers from police, local politicians

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Stephanie Mendoza, Juan Carlos Hernández’s aunt, cries out to the police in the Downtown Los Angeles Police Department to “return Juan to his family” on Sunday, Oct. 25. Juan Carlos Hernández, a part-time El Camino College engineering student, has been missing since late Tuesday, Sept. 22. The protest began in front of City Hall in Downtown Los Angeles and turned into a march around the Police Department located a block away from City Hall. (Jaime Solis/ The Union)

The family of missing student Juan Carlos Hernández continue their search by taking their voices to the streets of Downtown Los Angeles, protesting in front of City Hall and the Los Angeles Police Department Headquarters the morning of Oct. 25 while demanding action and answers from those in charge.

“[The police is] dismissing us, they’re giving us little to no resources and this is why most of the time when we find our loved ones, they’re dead,” Yajaira Hernández, Juan Carlos Hernández’s mother, said. “[They] take forever to take us seriously, they take forever to act, and this is not fair.”

Yajaira Hernández stood on the stairs in front of City Hall, speaking to a group of family and volunteers. Her voice echoed down the empty morning streets as she clenched a microphone close to her face.

Children, including Juan Carlos Hernández’s young cousins, stood near both her sides, holding signs with missing person flyers taped on them.

Yahaira Hernández, Juan Carlos Hernández's mother, speaks to a crowd of protesters, consisting of family, friends and members of the community, in front of City Hall in Downtown Los Angeles on Sunday, Oct. 25. She decided to hold this protest because she is frustrated with the police's lack of communication and perceived lack of urgency. (Jaime Solis/ The Union)
Yahaira Hernández, Juan Carlos Hernández’s mother, speaks to a crowd of protesters, consisting of family, friends and members of the community, in front of City Hall in Downtown Los Angeles on Sunday, Oct. 25. She decided to hold this protest because she is frustrated with the police’s lack of communication and perceived lack of urgency. (Jaime Solis/ The Union)

Juan Carlos Hernández has been missing since Tuesday, Sept. 22, after leaving his job at a dispensary around 10 p.m. A month later, on his birthday, his family gave back to the homeless community to honor his name but claim they have yet to hear from the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) on any updates regarding the case.

“[I’ve] done it through the book, I’ve given them time, I’ve been patient, but when is it enough? My son is out there, alive or dead, and no one, it seems that no one is doing anything to bring him back home,” Yajaira Hernández said.

A single officer dressed in black peaked from the top of the steps at City Hall, quietly watching the peaceful protest and avoiding attention. When Yajaira Hernández passed the microphone over to her sister, Stephanie Mendoza, Mendoza quickly turned to address the officer.

“I know you hear me, and I have nothing personal with you but we are different, and I know that your people can do more than what we could do,” Mendoza said. “I see you, that’s what you people do, you hide behind a brick wall. You guys hide behind a building, you guys hide behind your badge. That makes you feel powerful, right?”

A police offer sits behind a wall at the City Hall building in Downtown Los Angeles during the protest held for Juan Carlos Hernández on Sunday, Oct. 25. He sat there throughout the whole protest, occasionally getting up to observe and ultimately getting yelled at by Stefanie Mendoza during the protest. (Jaime Solis/ The Union)
A police offer sits behind a wall at the City Hall building in Downtown Los Angeles during the protest held for Juan Carlos Hernández on Sunday, Oct. 25. He sat there throughout the whole protest, occasionally getting up to observe and ultimately getting yelled at by Stefanie Mendoza during the protest. (Jaime Solis/ The Union)

The Hernández family continued to make direct demands at LAPD, marching to their headquarters and circling the building while chanting “Help me find Juan” and “We want answers,” among other things while a man banged on a drum to keep the tempo.

The peaceful protest remained active for several hours but did not receive any answers from LAPD despite a few people observing the protest from inside the building. Yajaira Hernández said she’s been inside LAPD Headquarters many times as the Robbery-Homicide Unit is located there.

“[I] know the offices are closed to the public, but I also know that the offices are open for [officers], so there’s people working in these buildings, there’s people inside,” Yajaira Hernández said.

The Union called LAPD Media Relations five times and emailed them once over the span of a week, but they failed to comment.

Stephanie Mendoza puts up a missing persons flyer on the barricade around the Downtown Los Angeles Police Department during a protest held for Juan Carlos Hernández on Sunday, Oct. 25. Several of these posters were put up around the Police Department, on flag poles, barricades and walls, but have all be subsequently torn down. (Jaime Solis/ The Union)
Stephanie Mendoza puts up a missing persons flyer on the barricade around the Downtown Los Angeles Police Department during a protest held for Juan Carlos Hernández on Sunday, Oct. 25. Several of these posters were put up around the Police Department, on flag poles, barricades and walls, but have all be subsequently torn down. (Jaime Solis/ The Union)

“It’s been way too long. We need answers, we want answers. We want you to come out, we want you to let us know that you’re hearing us not just ignoring us, we are people, we are the people of this place,” Mendoza said. “We need help, we need to stop being ignored and pushed away.”

The Hernández family maintain their wish to work with LAPD but are frustrated at how Juan Carlos Hernández’s case has been handled by the department and city officials.

Despite the Los Angeles City Council establishing a $50,000 reward fund for anyone with credible information leading to Juan Carlos Hernández’s location, the family questions city officials’ motives.

“All [politicians] want is fame, all they want is to take a picture giving a box of food to a family,” Yajaira Hernández said. “[To] hell with that. I’m the community. I’m the people. I live here, I pay taxes, I give back to my community, where the hell are they? Where the hell is every single politician?”

The family also questions the extent of effort on Juan Carlos Hernández’s case on behalf of LAPD, repeating “it’s been 30 days too long” and narrowing in on security camera footage from the night of his disappearance.

Yajaira Hernández said VIP Collective LA, the dispensary her son worked at, is surrounded by security cameras. Six of these cameras point towards the dispensary while one of them belongs to the dispensary itself.

She also questioned LAPD’s access to sufficient video surveillance on the area her car was later found abandoned in, the car her son had borrowed the day he went missing to go to work.

“[You’re] telling me that they can’t get a street camera on Figueroa and 64, which is a highly transited street, with prostitution, where there’s cameras, city cameras, all over that street plus the neighborhood cameras? You’re telling me they can’t get a video and look at it and see who got out the car and who left it there?” she said.

Evelyn Alcantara, aunt of Juan Carlos Hernández, leads the crowd of protestors marching around the Downtown Los Angeles Police Department on Sunday, Nov. 25. She lead the protestors many times around the Police Department, demanding for a response from the police in regards to information about Juan Carlos Hernández's missing person case. (Jaime Solis/ The Union)
Evelyn Alcantara, aunt of Juan Carlos Hernández, leads the crowd of protestors marching around the Downtown Los Angeles Police Department on Sunday, Nov. 25. She lead the protestors many times around the Police Department, demanding for a response from the police in regards to information about Juan Carlos Hernández’s missing person case. (Jaime Solis/ The Union)

Evelyn Alcantara, Juan Carlos Hernández’s aunt, led protestors around LAPD Headquarters and led demands through a microphone attached to a speaker.

“It’s been 30 days too long,” Alcantara said. “You have something, you know something, let us know. We want Juan back, what are you doing?”

The Hernández family is now considering hiring a private investigator to aid in the case, according to their GoFundMe. Funds collected there would go to hiring and paying the investigator.

“We see you, just because we’re not police and we’re not wearing the same badge, or we’re not doing your job, we’re not important? We’re a community, [we] pay your freaking salary. Listen to us, help us find Juan, help us find missing people,” Alcantara said.

The Hernández family pleas for people to continue the search and continue pressing LAPD and city officials through emails, phone calls and any other means they can find.

Yajaira Hernández said she plans on returning to LAPD Headquarters to peacefully protest as often as she can, even if it’s just her.

“We should not wait until he’s found dead, we should not wait until we can’t bring him back and then all we’re gonna get is ‘we’re sorry ma’am for your loss.’ No, to hell with that, they can do more now, and I want them to do more now,” she said.

Any information concerning the disappearance of Juan Carlos Hernández can be reported to LAPD’s Robbery-Homicide Unit over the phone at (213) 486-6840 or emailed to [email protected]

 

 

 

 

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: THIS STORY WAS UPDATED NOV. 5 TO CORRECT A TYPO.