New York Post
February 9, 2006

BRONX 'FRIENDLY FIRE' COP LOSES BRAVE FIGHT TO SURVIVE

By MURRAY WEISS, JENNIFER FERMINO and CYNTHIA R. FAGEN

At 1:03 p.m. yesterday, gravely wounded Officer Eric Hernandez died peacefully after his heartbroken family made the excruciating decision to end life support.

Hernandez's dad, Efrain, who throughout the ordeal was called the Rock of Gibraltar, consoling cops and family alike, finally broke down after he and his family gave the gut-wrenching OK to terminate life support for the handsome 24-year-old Bronx cop.

The grieving dad tearfully told officers, "I just didn't want him to suffer."

A sea of cops in dress blue uniforms and white gloves lined the fifth-floor hallway and stood across the lobby at St. Barnabas Hospital and saluted as his body was wheeled to an ambulance.

A police officer was seen carrying one of Hernandez's NYPD football-team trophies out of the hospital.

Hernandez's brain activity had ceased after he suffered a seizure last Sunday.

The traumatized family, including his father, mother, stepmom and siblings, had been sitting vigil at his bedside since he was shot and critically wounded in a "friendly fire" confrontation outside a White Castle in The Bronx on Jan. 28.

News of the young cop's death spread quickly throughout the 52nd Precinct, where he had worked.

"It was a very somber moment when they brought him out" to the ambulance," said Sgt. Thomas Black. "They [the family] were right behind Eric when he came out.

"He was a very good guy, a good cop and a good worker. He was always there for the men and women of the precinct. He's going to be missed."

Jenny Hava, 25, the officer's ex-girlfriend, was unaware Hernandez had died when she showed up at the Bronx hospital to visit him.

She started crying hysterically when she heard the news.

"My heart goes out to his family. My heart is broken for Eric. He didn't deserve this. Nobody does, but especially not Eric," she said.

On Tuesday night, Hernandez's dad asked fellow officers on his son's football team to abandon their bedside vigil.

"I want some closure with my son alone," he told them.

Yesterday morning, doctors performed one last brain scan, which showed no activity.

Other colleagues described Hernandez as a "great, great kid," and said they could see that the young cop "got his fine qualities from his dad."

Trauma surgeon Fausto Vinces broke down in tears. "He was a mess," said one source of the doctor's valiant efforts to save Hernandez.

Mayor Bloomberg honored the tragic cop yesterday, saying, "Officer Hernandez was a young and vibrant police officer dedicated to serving the people of New York City."

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said, "His valiant struggle over the last several days was emblematic of the grit and determination he demonstrated as a police officer and as an athlete. He fought courageously to the very end."

Hernandez will be given a full inspector's funeral.

The officer who shot him, Alfredo Toro, was hoping against hope that Hernandez would survive, and was described as "devastated" at the news that he'd died.

Kelly earlier said Toro was not to blame and that the shooting was by the book.

The on-duty patrolman shot Hernandez in each leg and the stomach. Hernandez was in street clothes and had been tackled by six men at the White Castle. He was pointing his gun at a man he thought had attacked him when Toro, not realizing he was a cop, opened fire.

An autopsy will be performed to determine whether his death is linked to the severe beating he took from the six thugs.

Depending on the medical findings, they could face more serious charges, perhaps even murder, sources said.