A Clark County Superior Court jury acquitted a Vancouver man Monday of charges of first-degree assault and drive-by shooting stemming from a February 2021 confrontation in Vancouver’s Fircrest neighborhood.
Santiago Hernandez Jr., 25, claimed self-defense in the Feb. 25, 2021, shooting of Christian Martinez-Serrano at the Autumn Chase Apartments, 11301 N.E. Seventh St.
The trial began the week of Thanksgiving. The jury started deliberating Monday morning and returned with the acquittal less than four hours later, Senior Deputy Prosecutor Toby Krauel said.
Hernandez had been in the Clark County Jail since his arrest in March 2021.
Defense attorney Katie Kauffman said she thinks the jury reached the right decision. She said the credibility of the victim’s testimony — that he didn’t know Hernandez, and he was unarmed when Hernandez shot him — was called into question throughout the trial.
Krauel said he disagreed with the jury’s not-guilty verdicts, but he respects its decision.
Vancouver police were dispatched at about 7:10 p.m. to a reported disturbance with a weapon at the apartment complex. Several 911 callers reported that shots were fired, a white pickup with a ladder rack fled the scene, and there was a man, later identified as Martinez-Serrano, in the area holding his arm and screaming, according to an affidavit of probable cause.
Martinez-Serrano got into a Jeep and was taken to a hospital, where police contacted him, according to the affidavit.
Police say the bullet that struck Martinez-Serrano went through his left arm and entered his torso. He underwent surgery for his wounds, court records say.
Martinez-Serrano told investigators the man who shot him had reported him to police earlier in the day over the theft of tools, which records confirmed. Kauffman said Hernandez owned a construction business and that his tools disappeared after he’d previously refused to buy tools from Martinez-Serrano.
Following the shooting, officers watched Hernandez leave his residence, pulled him over and arrested him. At the police department’s West Precinct, Hernandez said his girlfriend had accused Martinez-Serrano of “creeping on her” while she was walking through the Autumn Chase Apartments parking lot, according to the affidavit.
Hernandez drove to the apartment complex with his 2-year-old son in the passenger’s seat. He spotted Martinez-Serrano standing near a black Jeep, and the two men started shouting at each other as Hernandez sat in his truck, according to the affidavit.
Hernandez told police that Martinez-Serrano said, “You want some of this?” as he retrieved a black handgun from the Jeep, the affidavit says. Hernandez said he feared for his life and for his son’s life, so he unholstered his own gun.
Kauffman noted Hernandez had no criminal history and lawfully possessed his firearm.
“Hernandez stated that he fired approximately 10-12 rounds at (Martinez-Serrano) and then drove away from the location,” the affidavit reads.
Detectives later retrieved a .40 caliber semi-automatic weapon from Hernandez’s truck. They also searched Martinez-Serrano’s vehicle but did not find a gun, according to the affidavit.