SAN DIEGO: Testimony under way in hearing for woman accused in robbery spree

(CNS) – A man who was carjacked as he took a work break last
year testified Monday that a woman stuck a gun to his head during the ordeal and
told her boyfriend she would shoot the victim if he hurt her.

Renato Palma's testimony came during a preliminary hearing for Cindy
Altamirano Garcia, who is accused of taking part in a spree of armed holdups
with her boyfriend, former Riverside County-based firefighter Philip Martin
Hernandez, who ended up getting shot to death in a Halloween-night gunbattle
with police in Barrio Logan.

Palma said he was carjacked by Hernandez and Garcia about 1:20 p.m. last
Oct. 29 as he slept in his vehicle. Palma said Hernandez pointed a gun at his
head and ordered him to lie down on the front seat.

The victim said Garcia opened the passenger door and held what felt like
a gun to his head, telling Hernandez, “If he (Palma) hurts me, I'll shoot

Palma said Garcia handcuffed him and pulled him out of his car, then she
and Hernandez drove away after setting their car on fire. The victim said the
suspects were wearing bullet-proof vests with “Police” spelled out.

Garcia, 18, is charged with five counts each of attempted murder of a
peace officer and assault on a peace officer, as well as conspiracy,
carjacking, robbery and making a criminal threat, with an allegation that she
personally used a gun in the crimes.

Garcia was arrested Oct. 31 at the scene of the shootout that killed
Hernandez. San Diego police said Hernandez, a 40-year-old former Cal Fire
firefighter in Blythe, started dating Garcia when she was 16.

At the time of his death, Hernandez was facing four felony counts of
having sex with a minor. He retired from Cal Fire last July, shortly before the
felony complaint was filed against him.

Blythe police Detective Timothy Cornwell testified that Garcia called
authorities last May 13, saying she was “uncomfortable” living with Hernandez
because he was possessive and wanted to go home to National City.

Garcia told the detective that she had moved to Blythe with Hernandez
after he promised to send her to photography school in Greece. Garcia said she
was getting $600 a month from Hernandez.

Cornwell said he called Hernandez, who said he was having consensual sex
with Garcia, in what he described as an “arranged marriage.” Soon after,
both Garcia and Hernandez left the Blythe area, Cornwell said.

Five months later, officers in San Diego investigating an Oct. 29 series
of armed robberies and firearm assaults were tailing a white van occupied by
the suspects on Halloween night when the driver pulled over on Harbor Drive,
near Cesar Chavez Parkway, said San Diego police Capt. Terry McManus.

Hernandez jumped out of the vehicle and allegedly began shooting at the
patrol personnel with a rifle, prompting them to return fire. Struck by at
least one round, he turned, walked in front of the van, collapsed and died.

Garcia, who also had a gun, got out of a passenger-side door and was
arrested, said Deputy District Attorney Jim Koerber. Both she and Hernandez
were wearing law enforcement-style vests at the time of the 9:30 p.m. shootout,
according to McManus.

During one of the robberies, off-duty San Diego police Officer Les
Stewart, 57, was fired upon from behind at a walk-up ATM in Escondido. He was
either grazed in the scalp by a bullet or pistol-whipped, Koerber said.

At the conclusion of the preliminary hearing, which resumes tomorrow
morning, Judge Leo Valentine Jr. will determine whether enough evidence was
presented for Garcia to proceed to trial.

Categories: KUSI