L.A. bookseller went to protect his kids from a fight. He was shot and paralyzed

LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 11: Police patrol MacArthur Park a location that has become an important source of revenue for the MS-13 gang, whose members "tax," or extort, drug dealers, gamblers, sex workers and others for permission to operate within the park on Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021 in Los Angeles, CA. (Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)
Police patrol MacArthur Park in 2021. Earlier this month, a businessman was shot in the back near the Los Angeles park. (Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Luis Hernandez was worried about his children shortly before he was shot in the back outside his business near MacArthur Park.

Now the 40-year-old may never walk again.

On April 6, Hernandez and his wife were closing up their store where they sell Christian literature, keychains, backpacks and other items when a car parked next to his vehicle.

Moments earlier, he'd placed his three children — ages 2, 4 and 8 — into his car in the 700 block of South Alvarado Street as his wife locked up the store. It was shortly before 9 p.m. As he walked back to his car, an argument broke out between a person on the sidewalk and a group of people in the car parked next to him.

He wanted to move his car and children away from where people were arguing. As he got in the car, someone fired a gun from inside the gray Toyota Camry parked next to him, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.

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He was shot in the back, and the Camry drove away, police said.

Hernandez was rushed to Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center, where doctors explained to his family that the bullet had struck his spine and he was paralyzed from the waist down, according to Nora Flores, Hernandez's cousin.

"They told us there was no other surgery they could do to reverse his condition," Flores said. "We have faith that with physical therapy he can walk again. We're trying to be very supportive."

The people in the Camry are described as a man and woman and were last seen driving away, but there was no other information about the shooter or a motive, according to the LAPD.

“It just happened so fast,” said Hernandez’s wife, who does not want her name released because of safety concerns, as the suspects have not been identified.

Hernandez primarily works as a custodian and part-time at the store, which he opened about six years ago, according to Flores.

"He's a very generous, kind person who is always willing to help. He's a devoted father," Flores said. "Whenever I see my cousin, I get happy, because his energy is always positive."

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Hernandez arrived in Los Angeles in 2007 from Tegucigalpa, Honduras. In his first two years in the United States, Hernandez lived with Flores' family in L.A.

As a devout Christian, Hernandez volunteered most of his time at his church where he helped organize musical events and activities. He met his wife at church.

Flores cannot understand why someone would shoot her cousin.

"He's the furthest thing from someone who could be confused for a gang member," she said.

She's aware that Hernandez's life is going to change forever. She set up a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for his medical expenses.

Hernandez is the sole provider in his family. They are trying to keep his spirits up, but he's also trying his best to comfort his family.

"He's telling us it's going to be OK, he's trying to assure the children," his wife said.

Flores said: "I'm just thinking, of all the people in the world, why did this have to happen to him?"

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.