“His actions were irresponsible”: Mesa family wants teen tried as an adult after killing woman

Police say the teen accidentally pulled the trigger, but Elena Hernandez's family says they refuse to believe that.
Published: Oct. 27, 2022 at 9:07 PM MST
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MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- We are hearing from the family of 20-year-old Elena Hernandez, who was shot and killed by a teenager who police say was playing with a gun. This happened on Monday afternoon at the entrance of the Superstition Springs Mall in Mesa.

Her father tragically found out about his daughter while watching the news and recognizing the car. He called police to see if it was Elena, then shortly after got a call back that it was. While police are calling this an accidental shooting, her family says they want to change the narrative.

“She had a future ahead of her and she was just too young to be taken from us,” said her mother, Windsong Garcia-Harris. “Our family is broken and we are shattered,” added Elena’s father, Frank Hernandez Jr. “I shouldn’t have to be burying my child. My child should have buried me and that’s not the scenario here.”

“I’m going to miss you Elena. I love you so much,” her stepfather Jeremy Harris said. Flowers and candles lay alongside a photo of Elena at the site of the shooting in Mesa.

On Monday, Elena was in a car with two others driving into the Superstition Springs Mall when she was shot and killed by a 16-year-old who was reportedly playing with a gun in the backseat of the car. “She got a bullet to the back and through her heart,” Hernandez said.

Police say the teen accidentally pulled the trigger, but her family says they refuse to believe that. “You don’t enter a vehicle with a loaded gun and have a bullet in the chamber and immediately say this is an accident,” Hernandez said. “This was not an accident. I would like to see this individual tried as an adult because his actions were irresponsible.”

Police say the teen tried to hide the gun in a nearby bush. Elena’s father says he had concerns about the people she was hanging out with. “It was my worst nightmare,” Hernandez said. “I dropped to my knees and started hyperventilating.”

Elena is part of a big family. She was born in Colorado but moved to Mesa a couple of years ago to be with her dad. Her mother says her smile lit up every room. She said she had a loving heart and put others before herself.

Now the family grieves, holding each other close with only memories of Elena. “I was supposed to protect her. I’m her sister’s keeper and I couldn’t do that. With that being said I want all the justice for my sister I can get,” Elena’s sister said.

The teen was booked on multiple charges, including manslaughter, tampering with evidence and minor in possession of a firearm. The family has a GoFundMe to bring Elena’s body back to Colorado, where most of her family lives. If you’d like to donate, you can click here.