A month after her son was shot in the chest, Latina Judge Esther Salas has broken the silence of mourning to make her first public comments about the attack.
“Two weeks ago, my life as I knew it changed in an instant, and my family will never be the same,” she said in a video posted on YouTube. “A madman who I believe was targeting me because of my position as a federal judge came to my house.”
Salas referred to the attacker identified as Den Hollander, a lawyer who described himself as “anti-feminist” and defended “men’s rights.” Hollander had argued one case before Salas, according to federal court records. In this lawsuit, he represented a woman and her daughter as they sought to register for the military’s selective service.
Salas sided against a part of Den Hollander’s arguments. However, this seems to have been enough to make her the object of his rage.
The District Court judge said the shots were heard just after her son Daniel Anderl celebrated his 20th birthday at home with college friends.
“As the afternoon progressed, it was time to clean up from the weekend festivities; Daniel and I went downstairs to the basement, and we were chatting, as we always do. And Daniel said, ‘Mom, let’s keep talking. I love talking to you, Mom.’ It was at that exact moment that the doorbell rang, and Daniel looked at me and said, ‘Who is that?’”
“And before I could say a word, he sprinted upstairs. Within seconds, I heard the sound of bullets and someone screaming, ‘No!'”
Salas recounted how the man with a FedEx package in his hands, “this monster,” opened fire, taking the life of her son, who stepped in to protect his father.
“The monster then turned his attention to my husband,” she described.
Although her husband was shot three times, one on the right side of the chest and one in the abdomen, he has managed to recover in the hospital after several surgeries.
“We are living every parent’s worst nightmare,” she confessed, “making preparations to bury our only child.”
Amid the pain, the district judge decided to turn her grief, and her family’s into an urgent appeal.
“I am here asking everyone to help me ensure that no one ever has to experience this kind of pain,” she said. “We may not be able to stop something like this from happening again, but we can make it hard for those who target us to track us down.”
Salas’ message coincides with the anniversary of the massacre at the Walmart store in El Paso, where 23 people died of gunshot wounds after a radicalized man transformed the Latino community into his target.
“As a federal judge, I took an oath to administer justice without respect to a person’s race, gender or economic status,” the judge said, in an attempt to make people understand the risks involved in a profession like hers, especially if you are part of a demographic minority.
“We know that our job requires us to make tough calls, and sometimes those calls can lead people angry and upset,” she explained. “That comes with the territory, and we accept that. But what we cannot accept is when we are forced t olive in fear for our lives because personal information, like our home addresses, can easily be obtained by anyone seeking to do us or our families harm.”
“At the moment, there’s nothing we can do to stop it, and that is unacceptable,” she concluded. “My son’s death cannot be in vain.”