The 18-year-old accomplice in a three-day crime spree in San Diego that included the shooting of an off-duty police officer is a kidnapping and sex trafficking victim.
KFMB-TV reported Friday that Cindy Altamirano García pled not guilty to charges of carjacking, robbery and making criminal threats. She was arrested Oct. 31 at the scene of a shootout with police that killed her 40-year-old boyfriend, former Blythe, California firefighter Philip Hernandez. Her bail was set at $1 million. Her mother refused to speak to the press after her arraignment hearing.
According to U-T San Diego, Hernandez began “a sexual relationship” with García when she was 16 years old, and they moved to Blythe in April, but Riverside County police charged him for having sex with a minor a month later, after she notified authorities about the relationship.
However, the pair reconciled by the time a San Diego Police officer arrested him in connection with the case in September.
Hernandez’s arraignment had been scheduled for Oct. 29, but instead authorities say he became unhinged, wrongfully shooting a San Diego man he thought was a Blythe policeman pursuing charges against him before he and García, wearing clothing falsely identifying them as police, robbed three people and shot off-duty San Diego officer Les Stewart.
The unidentified first shooting victim is in critical condition. Stewart, who was grazed in the skull, is expected to recover.
Authorities said Hernandez was planning to kill his arresting officer in San Diego when they pulled him and García over in the Barrio Logan neighborhood Oct. 31.
Hernandez, who was allegedly driving erratically in order to incite an encounter with police, got out of his van after being pulled over and began firing at officers, who responded and shot him dead at the scene. García was arrested with a gun and tactical vest, both of which she allegedly got from Hernandez.
Documents released by officials in García’s hometown, National City, California, list her as a kidnapping victim who was taken to Mexico, where her captors raped her and prostituted her for about a month before a victim’s advocacy group, the Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition (BSCC), was able to save her.
“He’s brainwashing her with love, isolation, torturing her at the same time,” said BSCC spokesperson Marisa Ugarte of Hernandez. “She told me he was hitting her. She said she was all black-and-blue.”
Watch KFMB’s report, aired Friday, below.