Dillon man recognized for stopping crime in City Market parking lot
Manuel Hernandez pulled into City Market to buy milk for his eight-year-old daughter when it happened. It was about 10 p.m. He saw the man enter the passenger seat of the nearby car and the woman jump out of the driver’s seat and run.
“He thinks, ‘something’s not right,’” Dillon Police chief Mark Heminghous said. “He realized they weren’t together.”
When Hernandez asked the woman what was going on, she said the man had a knife.
“I tell her to call 911 because this guy, we need to find him,” he said.
In a brief foot chase, Hernandez followed the man to the property behind Einstein Bagels, pointing police in the right direction. He continued to follow the suspect and told him to turn himself in.
“The guy decided he wasn’t gonna stop, that he wasn’t gonna turn himself in,” Heminghous said. “So Manuel tackled him.”
Hernandez, 46, explained his thoughts when faced with the 26-year-old man.
“I tried to do it the easy way — I don’t hit him and he doesn’t hit me,” Hernandez explained. “I think, ‘I need to stop this guy because my family goes shopping around Summit County.’ If nobody stops him, he’s gonna think he’s smart and do it again.”
Nearly a year later, the Dillon Police Department recognized Hernandez’s heroic efforts, presenting him with the American Police Hall of Fame Knights of Justice Award. The medal, which depicts Michael the Archangel holding down a dragon, symbolizes courage and justice, though his family jokes it’s a picture of Hernandez holding down the perp.
Heminghous said the incident took place in the spring of 2015.
“This guy was in the store,” he said. “It appeared that he was prowling, looking for a victim.”
In trial, he was convicted of felony menacing and assault with a deadly weapon.
“It’s lucky nothing happened to her,” Hernandez said. “We need to help anybody who is in trouble. It’s important.”
MOVING TO THE MOUNTAINS
Hernandez, a maintenance worker with Summit Stage, moved to Summit County through a job transfer from Jackson Hole, Wyoming in 2000. Shortly after, he started working for Keystone, before joining the Summit Stage in 2007.
“I feel like it’s paradise,” he said. “I love this place. Summit County gave me a daughter.”
Originally from El Salvador, Hernandez worked in the transit business, before leaving for the United States. Growing up, he would walk up and down the hill selling ice cream.
“I didn’t care about the hill because when I came down, I had money in my pocket,” he said. “My mom, she was working too much.”
Since the El Salvador’s civil war ended in 2002, gang violence has escalated throughout the country. In 2015, the country’s homicide rate increased to 104 per 100,000 last year.
“We could go out of the house, but we didn’t know if we were gonna come back,” he said.
“It feels like a cancer,” he added. “We can see the news every day. A lot of friends, I’ve lost there.”
Hernandez’s two sons, ages 21 and 19, are still in the country, pursuing degrees in architecture and general systems.
“I love my kids,” he said. “I talk every day with those guys. I tell them to stay out of trouble.”
He hopes that with their advanced degrees, they will be able to pursue better jobs in a safe location, or like their father, help the people around them to make their home a safer place.
“I hope they have another opportunity to live in a better place, or can fix it, one day,” he said.
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