Woman sentenced to 10 years in prison after armed holdups and assaults

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – A young woman who took part in a series of armed holdups and assaults with her 40-year-old husband, who died in a Halloween gunbattle with San Diego police two years ago, was sentenced Friday to 10 years in state prison.

Cindy Altamirano Garcia, now 20, pleaded guilty in September to carjacking and assault with a semiautomatic weapon on a peace officer.

Garcia admitted helping Philip Martin Hernandez in a carjacking at the College Grove mall, in which she held a gun to the driver’s head and threatened to shoot him.

San Diego police investigating a series of armed robberies, shootings and vehicle fires were tailing a van occupied by the couple on Oct. 31, 2012, when Hernandez pulled over on Harbor Drive, near Cesar Chavez Parkway.

Police said Hernandez — a retired firefighter from Blythe — jumped out of the van and started shooting at officers, who returned fire, fatally wounding him.

Garcia — who also had a gun — was arrested at the scene.

Defense attorney Courtney Cutter said Garcia was kidnapped in 2009 and became a victim of sex trafficking in Mexico at the age of 14.

Garcia was freed and met Hernandez, who had sex with her when she was 16, authorities said. Hernandez was facing charges of having sex with a minor when he was killed.

Cutter said Hernandez also forced Garcia to have sex with other men.

Twenty days after her 18th birthday, Hernandez “went off the deep end” and involved Garcia in his crime spree, her attorney told Judge David Gill.

“She did what she was told,” Cutter said, admitting Garcia crossed the line when she put a gun to the head of the carjacking victim.

Before the fatal shootout, Hernandez put a gun in Garcia’s lap, according to Cutter.

“She wanted no part of it,” Cutter said. “This is not Bonnie and Clyde. Without Philip Hernandez, none of this would have happened.”

Koerber said law enforcement had contact with Garcia beginning at the age of 12.

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