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A 20-year-old man accused of shooting and wounding three people at Westgate Entertainment District in Glendale went there planning to shoot more as a way to “gain some respect,” Glendale police said Thursday morning. 

The suspect, Armando Hernandez Jr., was booked into a Maricopa County jail Thursday morning on suspicion of 16 felony charges.

Hernandez, a Peoria resident, said he intended to harm 10 people in an effort to “gain some respect” because he felt he “had been bullied in his life,” Glendale police Sgt. Randy Stewart said in a Thursday morning news conference.

During an initial appearance before a judge Thursday, prosecuting attorney Edward Leiter alleged Hernandez identified as an “incel” – referring to an online movement of people who say they are “involuntarily celibate” and promote violence against women. Hernandez's lawyer, Philip Beatty of the Maricopa County Public Defender's Office, objected.

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Westgate was still in as state of in-between Thursday morning. Police tape still surrounded the area and all entrances remain closed as investigators continued to gather evidence from the shooting the night before. The main streets around the district were open. 

The incident began at about 7:25 p.m. Wednesday when Glendale police received several calls reporting an active shooter at Westgate, near Glendale Avenue and Loop 101 in the West Valley. Officers arrived on scene within five minutes, Stewart said.

Officials aid Hernandez arrived at Westgate Wednesday, went inside, and began “scoping out the scene” before going to his vehicle to get his weapon. He loaded three rifle magazines and then returned.

Police say he shot three. Leiter said he was specifically targeting couples and two of the victims were together.

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The suspect in the shooting at the Westgate Entertainment District in Glendale that injured three was identified at a press conference. Arizona Republic

One of the responding officers, a police lieutenant with 26 years of experience, found Hernandez “immediately” and took him into custody without further incident. A video shared with The Arizona Republic showed the shooter surrender to police as soon as they approached.

A 19-year-old man who was taken to the hospital with life-threatening injuries remained in critical condition as of Thursday morning, Stewart said.

A 16-year-old girl also was taken to a hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening. A 30-year-old woman was injured but not transported, Stewart said.

Additional first responders swept the entertainment area Wednesday night and ensured there were no more victims and no outstanding threats to the community, Stewart said.

Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers expressed his thanks to the first responders on the scene and said the community was "attacked by a very senseless, senseless act of violence." He added, though, that he believes his city is resilient. 

"Arizona will not give in to fear in times like this," he said. 

Parent: 'My heart is still racing.'

Litchfield Park resident Beth Garverick said her 21-year-old son, Michael, went to Westgate for a date Wednesday evening. The pair had eaten dinner and were taking a stroll around the complex when they heard gunfire, Garverick said.

"He said that the sound of the gun was so loud, it was echoing when they were running," she said. "He never saw the shooter. ... He just saw people running and yelling that there was an active shooter."

Garverick said her son called her to tell her what was happening as he and his date fled — she described it as "the scariest thing parents will ever have to hear on the phone." 

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Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers reacts to the Westgate Entertainment District shooting on May 20, 2020. Arizona Republic

She said she could hear people yelling "Run!" in the background.

"Right now, talking to you, my heart is still racing," she said Thursday morning. "I couldn’t even believe it. We were just shocked. ... It was terrifying. You don’t think it’s ever going to happen to your own child."

Garverick said the couple was able to run to the condo of a friend who lived nearby. Her son wasn't able to pick up his car from Westgate until Thursday morning.

Police: Hernandez was in social media videos

A shelter-in-place order was lifted by midnight, about five hours after it was given. Businesses that were closed because of the incident had reopened by Thursday morning, Stewart said.

Officials investigated the scene, Hernandez’s vehicle and his home throughout the night.

Police said Hernandez acknowledged he was the shooter. He is facing 16 felony charges including aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, discharging a firearm and criminal damage.

Stewart said officials were aware of social media posts Wednesday night that appeared to show Hernandez prior to and during the shooting.

Police confirmed Hernandez was the person in those videos and were asking anyone with further information about the social media posts to contact them, Stewart said.

A black assault rifle was recovered from the scene. Investigators had not yet determined how Hernandez got the weapon or whether he had passed a background check, Stewart said.

It was unclear why Hernandez wanted to injure 10 people or why he chose Westgate as the place to attempt it, Stewart said. Officials were also working to determine if Hernandez was previously known to police, he said.

Salt River Project spokesperson Scott Harelson said Thursday afternoon that the blackout at Westgate on Wednesday was “definitely” caused by bullets striking electrical equipment at the outdoor mall. Some witnesses of the violence said the outage began at the time of the shooting.

A transformer on the ground near the movie theater at the mall was hit, severing a cable that delivers power to the area. That triggered an outage that put about 1,200 customers in the dark.

SRP was able to restore power to most residential customers in the area Wednesday night, but police would not immediately allow utility workers into the area where the transformer was hit. As of Thursday, SRP crews still were repairing the gunfire damage and seven businesses remained without power, Harelson said.

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Video appears to show an armed individual walking around a Westgate parking lot before being apprehended by Glendale police on May 20, 2020. Arizona Republic

Bail set at $1 million for Hernandez

Hernandez made his initial appearance before a Maricopa County Superior Court judge Thursday.

He stood silent in his orange jail jumpsuit as his attorney, Philip Beatty with the Maricopa County Office of the Public Defender, spoke to the judge from behind a face mask. 

Hernandez was booked into jail Thursday morning on suspicion of three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, three counts of aggravated assault resulting in serious injury, one count of criminal damage, one count of recklessly damaging property of a utility, five counts of discharging a firearm in city limits and one count of disorderly conduct with a weapon. Officials noted he could face additional charges. 

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Armando Hernandez Jr. makes his initial appearance at the Fourth Avenue Jail in Phoenix on May 21, 2020. Arizona Republic

A Maricopa County Superior Court judge set Hernandez’s bail at $1 million.

A prosecuting attorney during the appearance Thursday said Hernandez identified with an online movement of people who say they are “involuntarily celibate” and promote violence against women.

Beatty, Hernandez’s attorney, objected to that argument and said he had not received any evidence to corroborate that.

Beatty, reached after the hearing, would not comment.

Officials react to the Westgate shooting

Sen. Martín Quezada, D-Glendale, was on a video call in his third-floor residence in the entertainment district when he heard what sounded like gunfire Wednesday evening. 

“All of the power in the building I was in immediately went out,” he said during a call with reporters Thursday afternoon. "I couldn't tell at that time if they were actually gunshots or not. ... I know it was incredibly loud, and there were multiple, multiple rounds.”

Quezada went to his window to try to figure out what was happening. He said he saw some people fleeing and others “walking casually as if they weren't sure what was happening,” which left him even more confused. 

"But then, I saw the shooter walking towards my window,” he said. "He was wearing a mask. He was carrying his weapon. He was walking slowly and calmly. And, as I watched him, he appeared to be reloading his weapon. He then walked through a walkway that was directly under my window, and I immediately heard more shots after that.”

Quezada said he ran outside after the gunfire stopped. 

"I saw two victims that were laying in the street and they were crying out in pain,” he said. "I saw multiple other witnesses who were — they were all pretty terrified. Some were crying. Others described to me seeing the shooter, hearing his gunfire and seeking shelter. And everybody was just absolutely stunned." 

He thanked law enforcement officers for their rapid response, saying the shooting was over “within a matter of minutes.” But those three to five minutes were “honestly terrifying,” he said. 

"I've lost friends to gun violence — my best friend was shot and killed a few years back. And I always feared that this was something that was going to happen even closer to home,” he said. "But while it was happening, I was like, ‘Please, I hope this is not what it is’ … I'm hoping it's a firecracker.”

Quezada said he didn’t sleep more than an hour Wednesday night and was “still processing” the events Thursday afternoon. 

"I don't think a lot of it has really kind of settled in yet about ... what actually took place out there,” he said. 

'IT'S JUST UNREAL': Witnesses of Westgate shooting in Glendale describe chaos

Arizona Sen. Martha McSally said the victims and their families were "in our prayers," thanking first responders "who acted quickly and courageously" in a tweet Thursday morning.

Gov. Doug Ducey tweeted: "We’re grateful to the men and women of the @GlendaleAZPD and all the law enforcement and first responders who rushed to the scene last night. Their fast response no doubt saved lives. Arizona continues to offer our full support."

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Glendale police give an update on the Westgate Entertainment District shooting on May 20, 2020. Arizona Republic

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