Esther Salas, the judge who lost her son in an attack at her front door, became a target of this racially-motivated, sexist act of violence after having made her name as a pioneer of the Hispanic community.
Born on December 29, 1968 to a Cuban mother and Mexican father, Esther Salas is a U.S. district judge in the District of New Jersey.
After serving as a U.S. magistrate judge in the same court from 2006 until her confirmation as a federal district judge in 2011, Salas became the first Hispanic woman to serve in both those roles in her state.
She decided to focus her career on social service inspired by the struggle of her family growing up in poverty, with a mother who did not speak English and against all the obstacles that communities of color in the United States face.
After graduating from law school, and after years of experience as a paralegal, Assistant Federal Public Defender, and president of several Hispanic legal associations in New Jersey, President Barack Obama nominated her as a federal district judge.
Salas was in her basement on July 19 when a gunshot echoed through her front door. A 72-year-old man identified as Roy Den Hollander had opened fire, killing her son Daniel, 20, on the spot and injuring her husband, Mark.
Two days later, the FBI found Den Hollander’s body in what sources have said was a self-inflicted gunshot wound in upstate New York..
The lawyer was also a “men’s rights” activist and an outspoken anti-feminist, having made a legal career representing unsuccessful lawsuits against “ladies night” promotions at bars and nightclubs. Den Hollander even sued Columbia University for offering classes in women’s studies.
His connection to Salas came after he appeared before the judge with a lawsuit he filed against men-only military service.
According to federal court records, Den Hollander represented a woman and her daughter seeking to register for selective service in the Army, CNN reported. The clients alleged that the conscription was unconstitutional because it prohibited women from registering.
Salas, in fact, agreed with Den Hollander’s argument and allowed the lawsuit to go forward. Despite this, Den Hollander was unhappy with how her perceived Salas had carried out her ruling.
Both on his website and in various writings, Den Hollander, made public his hatred of women and used racist and sexist terms to discredit Salas.
A new investigation connected him to the death of another men’s rights lawyer, Marc Angelucci, at his home in Crestline, Calif., in early July. According to The New York Times, the two murders are “strikingly similar,” with the modus operandi being an armed man who showed up at the front door posing as a deliveryman before opening fire.
The echo of a political reality
Finding the source of Den Hollander’s racism and rampant misogyny is not so difficult when you live in a country where the White House has been the leading apologist.
Just as President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant speech had fueled the shooter’s intentions at a Walmart store in El Paso on August 03, 2019, Salas’ attacker also left a trail of his fanaticism for the president.
Den Hollander described himself in his writings as a Trump volunteer and argued Salas was the type of lawyer who wanted “to convince America that whites, especially white males, were barbarians, and all those of a darker skin complexion were victims,” The Atlantic explained.
Through the user name Roy17den, the lawyer published comments that totaled 2,028 pages where he made his profound racism and misogyny evident.
“Female judges didn’t bother me as long as they were middle age or older black ladies,” he writes when discussing a lawsuit he filed that went before Judge Salas, the first Hispanic woman appointed a federal judge in New Jersey. “They seemed to have an understanding of how life worked and were not about to be conned by any foot dragging lawyer. Latinas, however, were usually a problem-driven by an inferiority complex.”
He also attacks Justice Sotomayor, saying she was “52 years old, prime age for a Feminazi.”