Pineda, an illegal immigrant from El Salvador, is a flight risk and a danger to society, Fisher said. Pineda used the services of a Spanish language interpretor to understand the proceedings.
MPD Detective Anthony Paci testified at Pineda’s preliminary hearing Thursday, saying Pineda stared at Hernandez-Romero for “a minute or so” from about eight feet away before approaching him and shooting him at close range in front of about 20 people. Bystanders who witnessed the shooting restrained Pineda, wrestled the gun from him and identified him to Third District officers as the shooter, Paci said.
Witnesses heard Pineda say “Que paso,” translated as “what’s up?” to Hernandez-Romero, Paci said, and those with Pineda warned him “tranquillo” or “calm down.”
After the hearing, Prosecutor David Saybolt said Pineda’s statement, which could also be translated as “what happened?” stemmed from an interaction between Pineda and Hernandez-Romero in the bathroom before the shooting. Saybolt would not say what the interaction was.
Pineda, 24, does not have a criminal record in the United States. He was arrested in El Salvador on suspicion of robbery and gang activity but authorities in the U.S. do not know if he was convicted of those crimes, Paci said. Earlier reports indicated that Pineda was a native of Guatemala, Sayboldt said that those reports were incorrect.
“The information re: Guatemala came from [Department of Homeland Security], and I am told by DHS agents that persons from El Salvador who are being deported frequently give false home countries in an attempt to be deported to a country that is closer to get back to US from, e.g. that Salvadorans frequently say they are Mexican or Guatemalan for this reason,” Sayboldt wrote in an email message.
Pineda lives in Suitland, Md, is employed full time and has one child, Defense Attorney Eugene Ohm said.
Hernanedez-Romero’s family attended Thursday’s hearing. They said the 24-year-old man had lived in the United States for just over a year when he was killed and he was employed in two jobs, one in a restaurant kitchen during the day and another cleaning at night. His body was sent back to El Salvador for burial, they said.
Pineda is next due in court July 7 for a status hearing. Ohm told Fisher that preliminary plea discussions in the case have begun.