David Hernandez Filmed Portland Police Fatally Shoot Robert Delgado in Lents Park: “It Was Horrifying”

“I said, ‘Oh shit, this is gonna be serious,’ so I just started filming.”

David Hernandez shows WW reporters a video of police shooting Robert Delgado in Lents Park.

David Hernandez was smoking a joint with a friend in a parking lot at the edge of Lents Park on the morning of April 16, when a man walked over to his auburn-colored Chevrolet Suburban. They exchanged greetings and smoked a little pot together.

Hernandez saw the handle of a gun hanging out of the man’s shirt pocket, obscured slightly by his jacket’s lapel.

“The clip was not in it,” Hernandez says. “I never knew about a BB gun having a clip, but apparently they do.” Had he seen the whole toy replica, he would have noticed the large orange tab at the front, meant to distinguish the toy from a real gun. As it was, Robert Delgado assured Hernandez and his friend that it was merely a BB gun.

The meeting was brief and uneventful; Hernandez says he was too high to remember what they talked about.

The brief exchange was the only interaction Hernandez says he had with Delgado. Within two hours, Delgado would be dead, shot by Portland Police Officer Zachary DeLong, who was responding to a report that Delgado was “acting like James Bond” by quick-drawing the gun in the park.

Hernandez recorded DeLong shooting Delgado. He allowed WW to record his cellphone video.

Content warning: This video contains images of a violent death and its aftermath.

It shows DeLong aiming at Delgado from 90 feet away, from behind a tree, as Delgado stands shirtless in the grass, tossing around the tent he’d slept in.

The video does not provide any evidence that DeLong violated protocol by shooting Delgado. But what is striking to the layman is how how long officers wait after the shooting before approaching Delgado on foot.

While the video is unclear about what caused police to shoot, Hernandez says he watched as Delgado reached down to pick up an object. Then, he says, DeLong fired.

For the next six minutes after DeLong fired the lethal shot, video shows Delgado lying prone in the grass, moving at least once. Police seem unsure whether Delgado still poses a threat. They issue orders to him over a loudspeaker: “If you reach for that gun again, you will be shot.” One officer appears to fire non-lethal rounds at Delgado, about four minutes after he falls to the grass.

A group of officers finally approaches Delgado, using a rolling patrol vehicle for cover. When they realize he’s dead, they begin placing crime tape at the scene.

Hernandez has previously shared the video with several news outlets, including WW’s news partner KATU-TV. The video, paired with audio of police radio transmissions released by the Portland Police Bureau on Monday afternoon, provides a fuller picture of Delgado’s last moments alive.

Hernandez, who lives in his Chevy Suburban, spoke with WW reporters in the park this afternoon. He showed us his recording and answered questions about what he recalled from that morning in the park.

What did Delgado do after you two hung out?

He was folding up his tent, moving everything towards the fence. Getting ready to do his daily duties.

What made you start filming?

The first two officers showed up. They got out of their cars holding their weapons. And I said, ‘Oh shit, this is gonna be serious,’ so I just started filming.

What did the officers do when they arrived?

They showed up and immediately moved behind that tree. They didn’t talk to him, not till they were behind that tree. It was a little bit of time until they started making commands. They were studying him and looking at him.

And Delgado?

When they pulled up, he just got irate, just crazy. I can understand. Not many people like the police. But police made several commands. He didn’t obey them. He bent over to pick something up. I seen it. I seen him pick something up, but I couldn’t see what it was. Soon as he stood up to look at them, they shot him two times from the AR-15.

They hit him, they hit him once. Couple minutes later another officer came around from the other side and shot the body with a beanbag to make sure he was dead. And then everybody approached him.

How was it filming that scene?

It was horrifying. We’ve all seen people passing, but I’ve never seen a life taken before in front of me. That really disturbs me because that’s just not right. If you’re able to see the whole film on my phone, you can understand why I’m really apprehensive about the police now. They don’t get enough training. They don’t. They just don’t.

You never saw him point the BB gun at the police?

No, not at all. A good part of the video he has his hands up. Empty hands, no shirt, and nothing around his waist.

Has the shooting changed your view about policing?

It really has. The officer did not take notes or actually investigate the scene. He jumped out of his car, made commands, shouted orders at the guy. I understand that might be procedure, if someone has a gun. But he came in combative.

How have Portland police treated you?

They were very, very nice. But I’m worried. I’m gonna testify. I’m gonna tell them exactly what I saw, exactly what everybody saw. But what I testify is going to impact the life of that officer. That worries me. I’m exhausted and I didn’t do shit.

Willamette Week's journalism is funded, in part, by our readers. Your help supports local, independent journalism that informs, educates, and engages our community. Become a WW supporter.