Armando Hernandez Jr. makes his initial appearance at the Fourth Avenue Jail in Phoenix on May 21, 2020.
Police say Armando Hernandez Jr. had considered carrying out a mass shooting for three to four years. The 20-year-old was arrested after three people at Glendale’s Westgate Entertainment District were shot.
Hernandez, clad in the signature inmate shade of orange, made his first appearance before a judge Thursday, hours after he was booked into a Maricopa County jail on suspicion of more than a dozen felony charges.
A prosecutor called him an “incel,” referring to an online movement of mostly men that view themselves as “involuntarily celibate” and promote violence against women.
Two of his victims are women.
A 19-year-old man was in the hospital in critical condition on Thursday, officials said. A 16-year-old girl went to the hospital for injuries that were not life-threatening and a 30-year-old woman was hurt but did not go to the hospital.
Little has been discussed publicly about the suspected shooter at this point. Here’s what we know so far:
Prosecutors say Hernandez is a self-described incel
During a court hearing Thursday, prosecutors accused Hernandez of being an “incel” who targeted couples and had been planning a “mass casualty” at Westgate for three or four years.
Leiter said that, in an interview with officials, Hernandez admitted to targeting couples. Officials believe two of the gunshot victims are a couple, Leiter said.
“He’s a self-professed incel, which means he claims he’s involuntarily celibate,” Leiter said Thursday. “Mr. Hernandez had the express purpose of taking out his expressed anger at society, the feeling that he has been bullied, the feeling that women don’t want him.”
Hernandez had been “bullied all his life” and wanted to “gain some respect,” Glendale police Sgt. Randy Stewart said at a news conference Thursday morning.
Police and Leiter say Hernandez planned on harming 10 people.
However, Hernandez told police he didn’t want to kill anyone according to court documents, though they don’t elaborate as to why.
The incel movement has been tied to acts of mass violence for years.
Elliot Rodger became the movement’s figurehead after he killed six and injured 14 in a 2014 string of attacks near the University of California-Santa Barbara. After stabbing three roommates in his apartment, Rodger went knocking on the door of a sorority house, where he shot three women inside. Two of them died.
When a 25-year-old Canadian man ran his van into Toronto pedestrians, investigators found his social media posts that he wanted to incite an “incel rebellion” and praised the “Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which labels and tracks hate groups in the U.S., maintains there are several “male supremacy” hate groups online, including incels.
“These groups consistently denigrate and dehumanize women, often including advocating physical and sexual violence against them,” the center wrote in 2018. “On the internet, the male supremacist ideology takes a few different forms. One of the newest forms is ‘incel.'”
Many experts say gun violence is a disproportionately male problem.
Prosecutor says closures set Hernandez ‘over the edge’
Hernandez was angry on Wednesday, Leiter said during Thursday’s hearing. The prosecutor laid out a timeline of one thing after another irking Hernandez until he grabbed an assault rifle with three 30-round magazines and set out to shoot 10 people at Westgate.
First, Hernandez told his family that he was angry and was going to the gym, Leiter said. Then, he went to a Panda Express for dinner. For some reason, Leiter said, he couldn’t get dinner there.
“He drove to Westgate, both an AR-15 and three 30-round magazines in the back. He wasn’t sure exactly what he was going to do there,” Leiter said. “He made some calls to try to talk to some friends, they didn’t respond.”
Then, he decided to see a movie, he said. The AMC Westgate 20 was closed.
“The fact that the movie was not showing because of the pandemic, this sort of set him over the edge, as he said last night,” Leiter said. “He proceeded to then livestream aspects of when he called himself the Westgate shooter.”
People posted recordings of Hernandez’s Snapchat videos, which featured him declaring himself “the shooter of Westgate 2020” and firing shots in a hallway. One video shows him saying “this is all society’s bulls–t” while aiming his gun at a woman laying next to a red car.
‘It couldn’t be anybody I know’: Those who knew Hernandez surprised by his actions
Hernandez lived in Peoria, less than three miles from Westgate.
He spent at least part of high school at Raymond S. Kellis High School, just about a mile from Westgate, Peoria Unified School District spokeswoman Danielle Airey said in a statement.
Hernandez attended the school “briefly,” Airey said, but withdrew during his sophomore year. He did not enroll in another PUSD school after that, she said.
Devon Cordova, who said he was a casual friend of Hernandez when they attended high school together, said he knew Hernandez had anger issues and was into guns but never imagined he would go on a shooting spree.
Cordova said he would sometimes talk with Hernandez during lunch in high school, but they never spent time together outside of school.
He said Hernandez often posted videos of him firing weapons on Snapchat. Hernandez often got in trouble in high school, Cordova said, while picking fights with people.
Cordova also recalled Hernandez espousing anti-government views.
“I just know that he was against the government and stuff like that,” Cordova said. “So he always liked to break the rules and stuff.”
Cordova said he’d never met Hernandez’s family and the two didn’t share mutual friends.
During his Thursday appearance before a judge, his attorney said Hernandez lived in Peoria with his father and brother.
“(Hernandez) seemed like a very nice, well-mannered individual,” his neighbor Elida Corella said. “It’s just hard to believe someone like him … could do something like what they say he did.”
Hugo Gonzalez, who owns the Hernandez’s home and rents it out to them, said he didn’t hear that Hernandez was a suspect until Thursday morning when his sister informed him.
“I did see a headline … yesterday evening and I thought, ‘Wow, that’s close to home there.’ And then I thought, ‘It couldn’t be anybody I know,'” Gonzalez said. “It’s such a tragedy.”
Gonzalez, who lives in San Francisco, rented to the Hernandez family through a realtor. He said he never met them in-person and that they’ve been good tenants.
The Arizona Republic reached out to Hernandez’s family, but they did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
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