TURLOCK — David Hernandez was a devoted father and partner. He was an avid fan of the Oakland Raiders and the Los Angeles Lakers. He was not, family members say, a gang member.
Hernandez, 35, was shot Saturday evening in front of his grandmother's South Avenue home. Lifesaving efforts were unsuccessful, and he died at an area hospital. Police later arrested Ernesto Negrete, 20, of Turlock in connection with the case. Negrete was booked into Stanislaus County Jail on charges of murder and drug possession; he is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday.
Police said the shooting might be gang-related. Though that might be the case for the suspect, family members of the victim denied he had anything to do with that kind of lifestyle.
"My son was never, ever in gangs," said Martha Hernandez. "He had no trouble."
David Hernandez worked for 15 years at Volk Enterprises, which manufactures poultry trussing devices and thermometers. He spent longer than that with Sylvia Cabrera, whom everyone referred to as his wife, even though they hadn't had a marriage ceremony.
"He was my first kiss, my first everything," said Cabrera. The couple has three children, 18, 10 and 2. The two older children are taking their father's death hard, and the 2-year-old boy keeps looking for him, Cabrera said.
JoLynn DiGrazia, director of the nonprofit Westside Ministries, said the Hernandez family was active with her organization. His daughter took dance lessons, and his older son was in 4H.
DiGrazia said she last spoke to Hernandez when his son went to camp this summer.
"He was so proud," DiGrazia said. "When you take someone who works hard and supports his family, it hurts all of us. We are just heartbroken."
Family members said they were familiar with Negrete, whose mother was dating Hernandez's brother. They don't know why he might have targeted Hernandez, but said he was standing outside with some cousins, one of whom was a former gang member, when the shots rang out Saturday evening.
"He had just come to have dinner with his grandmother and cousins," said another cousin, Alexandra Mendez, who lives in the South Avenue home. She said she heard four gunshots, then ran outside to see Hernandez lying on the ground.
Turlock police could not be reached Monday for an update on the investigation.
Martha Hernandez said she grew up on South Avenue, and in recent years gang violence has taken over the streets. And residents are too fearful of gang reprisals to report any suspicious activity.
"This needs to stop," she said.
Westside Ministries, which is aimed at helping low-income families on the city's westside, is trying to take a stand. DiGrazia said volunteers are planning nightly vigils at 10 p.m. in Columbia Park this week to protest the violence that has affected too many lives.
Cabrera is left facing the new year without the man with whom she'd shared half her life.
"We were always together," she said. "I don't know how I'm going to do it ... I feel robbed."
Breaking News Editor Patty Guerra can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2343. Follow her on Twitter, @pattyguerra.
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