Police: Glendale suspect wanted to shoot 10 people at Westgate

1 victim in critical condition, 2 others with non-life threatening injuries


A suspect is in custody after shooting and injuring three people at Westgate Entertainment District in Glendale, according to police.

A 19-year-old man is in the hospital with life-threatening injuries and remained in critical condition as of Thursday morning. A 16-year-old girl and a 30-year-old woman sustained non-life threatening injuries.

"Last night we received a call that we never want to get, an active shooter situation where multiple lives were at risk," Glendale Chief Chris Briggs said at a press conference Thursday morning. "In less than 10 minutes our officers were on scene and managed to take the suspect into custody. This is a prime example of how we were able to work together as a team to save lives and reduce the risk of injury to others. No words can express the pride I have in all my officers. They not only did their jobs last night, they did their jobs well."

Around 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 20, Glendale police responded to multiple 911 calls of a shooting at Westgate Entertainment District, which is between Loop 101 and 91st Avenue west to east and between Glendale Avenue and Maryland Avenue north to south.

According to police and court documents, the 19-year-old and 16-year-old victims were together when they were shot in the chest and leg, respectively, outside of Johnny Rockets. The 19-year-old is in critical but stable condition, records state.

When first officers responded, there were no more reports of gunshots, Officer Tiffany Ngalula said. Police then located and arrested the suspect without injury.

Glendale police identified the suspect as Armando Hernandez Jr., 20, of Peoria. Police also confirmed the suspect is the same person seen in Snapchat video posts that circulated on social media. The videos also appeared to show one of the victims on the ground talking to the suspect.

Ms. Ngalula said there are no outstanding suspects.

"We are thankful that this was not a larger scale tragedy," she said.

At the press conference Thursday morning, Sgt. Randy Stewart said the suspect admitted to the shooting, saying he wanted to shoot 10 people, "gain some respect" and that he had been bullied throughout his life. Police said the suspect arrived at Westgate to scope it out before returning to his vehicle to obtain a firearm. He then tried to locate "targets" that were within his general age range to shoot, police said.

The suspect denied wanting to kill anyone but confirmed he wanted to injure them to gain respect, according to records.

Police later recovered a black AR-15 style assault rifle at the scene, according to records. 

At the suspect's initial court appearance, a prosecutor said the suspect became angry when he wasn't able to obtain what he wanted from a restaurant or see a certain movie at a theater. The prosecutor also said the suspect had claimed to be involuntary celibate and that females did not want to be with him. The suspect reportedly wanted to target couples, the prosecutor said.

The suspect faces charges including aggravated assault, criminal damage, discharge of a firearm, recklessly damaging property of utility and disorderly conduct. He was jailed in lieu of $1 million bond with a court date May 28.

Ms. Ngalula said neighboring agencies helped with the case, including searching surrounding areas for any more victims and witnesses, informing businesses of the situation and telling them to shelter in place.

The public was advised to stay away from the area. A power outage in the area had affected as many as over 1,200 customers Wednesday night, according to Salt River Project's outage map. Police advised people to contact any loved ones in the area via phone rather than coming to the area.

On Thursday, police said detectives determined the damage caused by the shooting resulted in strikes to a transformer, causing the power outage to most of the Westgate area and traffic intersections. The power is back on and the businesses have been released to reopen Thursday morning.

Anyone with information on the incident can call Glendale police at 623-930-3000 or Silent Witness at 480-948-6377.

Anyone who has first-hand video or photos of the incident can upload that media to Axon Citizen.

Participating agencies include police departments from Phoenix, Peoria, El Mirage, Buckeye and Goodyear, along with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, the Arizona Department of Public Safety, the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Glendale Fire Chief Terry Garrison said the city's public safety agencies have been training for months together on active-shooter situations, preparing for days like Wednesday night.

“We hope we never have to use that training, but we’ve been training and really deciding how we respond together as a coordinated group," he said. "You can imagine how complicated things are when you have a shooter at the scene, you have people that you’re trying to protect, and we work together very well to do that."

Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers extended his support for the victims and praised the roles law enforcement played in responding to the incident.

“As we begin to emerge from our homes into our public spaces again, evil acts like this have a very, very fearful and paralyzing effect. That’s if we let them,” Mr. Weiers said. “Don’t give in to fear. Don’t let senseless acts like this change your habits.

“Arizona will not give into fear in times like this. We’re going to stand together, we’re going to emerge stronger, and we’re going to be more unified.”

In multiple tweets, Arizona Sen. Martin Quezada, LD-29, was in his third-floor residence at Westgate when shots rang out and the power cut off after gunfire struck an electrical transformer.

From his window, he saw people running, then a man appeared to be reloading a gun while walking calmly toward his building, according to The Associated Press. When he went outside, he saw two people laying in the street crying out in pain.

"To be honest, I don’t think a lot of it has really settled in yet about what I witnessed and what actually took place out there,” Mr. Quezada said Thursday.

"I'm ok. Lots of shaken up people," he stated on Twitter the night of the shooting.

A tweet from Gov. Doug Ducey's Twitter account states his office is monitoring the situation and that the Arizona Department of Public Safety has been in contact with local police.

"First and foremost, our hearts and prayers are with the individuals and families impacted tonight, as well as the first responders and police officers who are on the scene," according to a statement from Mr. Ducey. "As we learn additional details, the state is here to continue to offer its full support to the victims and to the community."

Mark Kelly, who is running for one of Arizona's U.S. Senate seats, shared his thoughts on Twitter.

"There is no more terrifying time than right now for everyone who is wondering if their loved ones who were at Westgate are safe, or if they are among those who were hurt," Mr. Kelly's account stated. "@GabbyGiffords and I have been through this, and so have far too many other Americans. We’re with you."

The Glendale Police Department Victim Assistance Unit has several services available, including free counseling, victim compensation application assistance, and other community resource and referral. Contact them at 623-930-4595. 

"The Glendale Police Department and the Victim Assistance Unit would like to offer our deepest sympathy to the victims, witnesses, and patrons impacted by the Westgate Entertainment District shooting," according to a statement. "We know it is common for people to experience a variety of emotions following a traumatic event. These feelings may include anger, disbelief, numbness, sadness, shock, and others. You may find yourself having trouble concentrating, eating, sleeping, or even completing an otherwise routine task."