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Teen shooting suspect to be tried as adult

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A Hobbs teenager charged with shooting at a vehicle early Sunday and striking a 15-year-old boy three times will be tried as an adult, the district attorney said Tuesday.

Kevin Hernandez, 17, of Hobbs, was charged Sunday with shooting at or from a motor vehicle involving great bodily harm and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.

According to police reports, Hernandez shot at a car at about 5 a.m. Sunday after one of its occupants threw a banana at the car in which Hernandez was a passenger.

The 15-year-old shooting victim was shot once in his left forearm, once in his right elbow and once in his right leg, police said. He was listed in stable condition Monday.

Fifth Judicial District Attorney Dianna Luce told the News-Sun Tuesday that Hernandez is being held in the Lea County Juvenile Detention Facility in Lovington.

Luce said Hernandez will be tried as an adult. He faces a maximum possible sentence of 13 years; nine years for the second-degree felony charge of shooting at or from a motor vehicle with great bodily harm, and three years with a one-year enhancement for the third-degree felony charge of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.

Luce said both charges are considered serious violent offenses.

According to a witness named in the arrest report, he saw Hernandez seated in the front seat of the suspect vehicle and holding a black pistol immediately before the gunfire. The shooting occurred at the intersection of North Grimes Street and Paseo Corto.

Luce said, generally speaking, a person under 21 is not allowed to own a firearm, although a person from 18 to 20 years old may be given a gun, while possession is prohibited. She said Hernandez has not been charged with a firearms charge at this time.

Police said the incident occurred while the 15-year-old victim and four other teenage boys were heading southbound on Grimes Street after buying bananas to throw at cars from a convenience store on North Grimes Street.

One of the boys apparently threw a banana at a northbound car, which swerved, turned around and chased the other car.

As the pursuing vehicle got close to them, the boys said they heard three or four gunshots and the 15-year-old driver began screaming that he had been shot.

After the shooting, the boys said they stopped to help their friend and called police.

Luce declined to comment on which of the boys apparently threw a banana at the oncoming car. She also declined to comment on whether any of the boys who reportedly conspired to throw bananas at other vehicles would be charged.

Luce said it was yet unknown if the 15-year-old victim driving the car had a driver’s license or learner’s permit. There is no curfew for juveniles in New Mexico, she said.

Although the shooting occurred hours after the Hobbs High School prom and involved several HHS students, Brian Dunlap, interim chief of the Hobbs Police Department, said that the shooting was not prom-related.

“It was just some kids being silly and some others taking inappropriate action in return,” Dunlap said.

Police said an officer recognized the suspect vehicle from a private property accident a couple hours earlier Sunday morning at a fast-food restaurant along North Lovington Highway. Police obtained an address for the owner of the suspect vehicle, and then went to a home in the 2200 block of North Gila Drive. Police said the suspect vehicle was parked in the front yard, with what appeared to be banana residue on the driver’s side headlight.

The driver of the suspect vehicle reportedly told police he was attempting to pull in front of the other vehicle when his front-seat passenger, Hernandez, rolled down the passenger window and began shooting at the other car. The driver said he did not know Hernandez had a gun nor that he would shoot at the other car.

The driver of the suspect vehicle identified his passengers and escorted police to their home in the 500 block of East Kiva Street. Hernandez and his 18-year-old brother were then taken to the Police Department for interviews.

Hernandez’s 18-year-old brother, seated in the rear seat of the suspect vehicle, also reportedly told police he did not know that his brother had a gun or intended to shoot at the other car.

When interviewed by police, Hernandez reportedly said a fourth occupant in the suspect vehicle pulled out a gun and was going to shoot out the passenger window.

“Kevin said he shot approximately six times and then gave the gun back to (a fourth occupant) as they drove away,” Hernandez reportedly told police, adding he did not know what happened to the gun.

Police said only Hernandez alleged there was a fourth occupant in the suspect vehicle. The driver and Hernandez’s brother had told police there were only three people in their car.

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