Man who killed Catholic roommate for praying at hospital to be arraigned on murder, hate crime


Jesse Martinez, a COVID-19 patient who beat a fellow patient to death with an oxygen tank at Antelope Valley Hospital in Lancaster, will be arraigned on December 31st for murder, elder abuse, and religion-motivated hate crime, authorities announced on December 28.

The victim, David Hernandez-Garcia, an 82-year-old Catholic Latino man, was a resident of Lancaster, a suburb north of Los Angeles in California. He was being treated for a COVID-19 infection in a two-person room. 

According to a report from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, on Thursday, December 17, 2020, at approximately 9:45 a.m., "the victim was at Antelope Valley Hospital receiving treatment for Covid-19.  He was housed in a two-person room inside the hospital with the suspect, who was also there receiving treatment.  The suspect became upset when the victim started to pray. He then struck the victim with an oxygen tank." 

"The victim succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced deceased on December 18, 2020, at approximately 10:20 a.m. The victim and suspect did not know each other", the statement added.

Martinez was arrested at the scene after hospital staff detained him until police arrived, according to Lt. Brandon Dean, a spokesman with the Sheriff's Department. 

City officials said there is little the hospital could have done to prevent the violence, given that the hospital, an urgent care center, was "drastically understaffed and medical staff is suffering from exhaustion." 

The sheriff's department told CNA that the investigation was still ongoing and that it could not comment further. A spokeswoman for the hospital provided the same reason for not commenting. 

According to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, Martinez's arraignment was rescheduled from Monday, December 28 to New Year's Eve because he was unable to come to court for medical reasons. Sheriff's jail records indicate that he is being held at Twin Towers Correctional Facility in downtown Los Angeles in lieu of $1 million dollars bail.

He could face up to 28 years to life in state prison if convicted as charged.

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