Albuquerque, NM – A popular neighborhood mailman was murdered on Monday when he tried to intervene in a fight a mother was having with her teenage son in front of their home.
Police said 17-year-old Xavier Zamora was outside arguing with his mom in the 700-block of Terracotta SW on Monday afternoon when 47-year-old Jose Hernandez passed by on his usual mail delivery route, the Albuquerque Journal reported.
Court records said that Zamora “became aggressive” with Hernandez so the mailman sprayed him with mace.
That’s when an enraged Zamora went inside the house and got a gun, and then returned outside to shoot Hernandez in the abdomen, according to the Albuquerque Journal.
Afterward, the shooter fled back into the house.
Neighbors provided first aid while they waited for the ambulance and tried to revive Hernandez, a father of four.
Zamora’s mother stayed by Hernandez’s side while lifesaving efforts were attempted, but all were unsuccessful and the man died at the scene, The Washington Post reported.
SWAT officers descended on Zamora’s home and an hours-long standoff ensued.
When the officers finally made entry on Monday night using "flash-bang grenades," nobody was inside the house, The Washington Post reported.
Police believe Zamora made good his escape before authorities arrived on the scene.
A two-day manhunt began which ended Wednesday night when Zamora was taken into custody without incident at a residence in southwest Albuquerque, Gilbert Gallegos, a spokesman for the Albuquerque Police Department, told The Washington Post via email.
He was arrested in a joint operation by the Albuquerque police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, KOB reported.
"Jose was a very special guy. He was not your ordinary mailman. He’d go out of his way to talk to you. If packages were too big to put in the mailbox, he would bring them over to your house,” neighbor Michael Sheppard told KOAT.
Neighbors have created a memorial where Hernandez was killed to honor the fallen mailman.
"It’s a sad thing that somebody lost their temper and committed a crime against Jose when he didn’t deserve it,” Sheppard said. “Totally innocent person defending somebody - and then to be killed for it, it’s senseless.”
Hernandez, a native of Phoenix, Arizona, was an Army veteran who had worked for the U.S. Postal Service for 12 years, a postal service spokesman told the Albuquerque Journal.
Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller asked the community to come together to support mail carriers in the wake of Hernandez's murder, CNN reported.
"We are grieving with the family of the victim, and with the entire postal service family," Keller said. "While we are working to get answers to the many remaining unanswered questions, we know we must, and will continue to, fight against the gun violence that has taken a terrible toll on our community. Fighting crime will remain our top priority."
"Albuquerque, please take some time in the next few days to personally make sure your local letter carrier knows how much you appreciate them, and give them your love and support," the mayor requested.
Zamora has been charged with one open count of murder, according to KOB.