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Ex-gang member dies in tragedy

Two suspects who pled guilty to a fatal 2015 shooting await their sentencing in Madera County Superior Court, along with the suspect in another attempted murder.

And for the family of the victim, Fabian Hernandez, 35, of Madera, that day of reckoning cannot come soon enough.

“We cannot bring back Mr. Hernandez to any members of his family,” Madera County Judge Dale J. Blea said in court. “If we could, we would.”

Meanwhile, those who loved him try to make sense of why the two men would take the life of Hernandez, who, by all accounts, had turned his whole life around, and dedicated it to helping others.

“He gave his life to the Lord, and he left all that behind,” said Pastor Tim Echevarria of the New Harvest Christian Fellowship church. “He really, radically got saved by changing his whole life.”

Pastor Echevarria, who also serves as a chaplain for the Madera Police Department, met Hernandez in July 2014, and claims that he became active not only in the church, but in the community. He began doing outreach after walking away from the gang life, giving his testimony to others to encourage them to leave the gangs as well.

“He would go out into the streets telling people about Christ. He was going to church over four times a week service-wise,” Echevarria said. “We took him to Stockton; we took him to Los Angeles. He was going to teachings throughout California.”

Hernandez’s testimony, according to Echevarria, was directed not only at his peers, but to anyone who would listen.

“He was reaching out not only to gang members, but everybody. Everywhere he came in contact with people, he would tell them about the Lord,” Echevarria said. “And he did focus a lot on all gang members. Everybody, from African-American gang members, to Northerners, to Southerners. There was no discrimination. He’d talk to everybody about God.”

Echevarria described Hernandez as a man working towards his goals. Having found work as a tile setter, Hernandez hoped to start teaching people how to leave gangs for good. A doting father of several children, he had also won back custody of one of his daughters, and was quickly becoming an example for his other children to follow.

His goals were not meant to be.

Hernandez was killed on June 18, 2015, when a barrage of gunfire from a passing car was directed at his home at 1110 Lacreta Ave. Also in the house were his mother, daughter, and aunt and uncle. He was sitting on the couch, texting, when a bullet went through a window and struck him, cutting Hernandez’s promising life, and ministry short.

It took nearly a year for Madera Police detectives to solve the case, which initially had few leads. On May 27, however, the police were able to arrest Kevin Rendon, 20, of Madera for the shooting.

Oscar Reyes, 21, who was already in the Madera County Jail for another shooting which took place just days later, was also charged as the getaway driver. Both suspects have pleaded guilty before they could stand trial. On Thursday, they were brought back to court to hear the testimonies of the family, including his niece, Angela Ruiz.

“He was a changed man who went to church,” Ruiz said at the hearing. “He is the one who got everyone going to church, and that’s how I’m going to remember him.”

Reyes and Rendon will return to court on Nov. 17 to learn of their fates. It is the family’s hope, and that of Echevarria as well, that this will close the book on an agonizing year for those who loved Hernandez, and were touched by his work.

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