Alleged shooter's ex-girlfriend fills in grim details of fatal Dallas Methodist hospital shootings
A Dallas prosecutor told jurors Tuesday that Nestor Hernandez "wreaked hell on Earth" when he allegedly opened fire in the maternity ward at Methodist Dallas Medical Center last year and killed two workers.
Dallas County Assistant District Attorney George Lewis said that a maternity ward should be the happiest place in the world.
“You would also think that it would be the safest place on Earth as mothers, fathers, hospital staff members take the utmost care to protect these small, newborn, precious babies,” Lewis said in opening arguments. “However, that image came crashing down on Oct. 22, 2022.”
Hernandez, 31, is charged with capital murder of multiple people and two separate aggravated assault charges for the alleged shooting, which left 45-year-old social worker Jacqueline Pokuaa and 63-year-old nurse Katie “Annette” Flowers dead.
The district attorney's office chose not to pursue the death penalty for Hernandez, which means he faces an automatic life sentence if convicted of capital murder.
Defense attorney Paul Johnson asked jurors to consider all the evidence in the case before making a decision based on what prosecutors say. He asked that they instead give Hernandez a lesser conviction of murder.
“I believe that the evidence in this case is going to have some twists and turns that they’re not anticipating,” Johnson said.
Testimony from Selena Villatoro, Hernandez’s on-and-off girlfriend, gave an in-depth narrative of the shooting that provided details beyond censored body camera and surveillance footage released by the Dallas Police Department.
Villatoro, 26, said she’s known Hernandez since 2014. She testified Hernandez had driven her to the hospital the day before the shooting to give birth to their baby boy, and things were good between the two of them.
Dallas police and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said Hernandez was out on parole for aggravated robbery and had an ankle monitor, but he had permission to be at the hospital.
But when Hernandez entered Villatoro’s room in the hospital’s postpartum unit with a beer in hand, she said she became upset.
Villatoro said Hernandez seemed intoxicated and began calling his brother and his nieces, telling them he loved them and to “be good” — all while the couple's newborn son slept in a bassinet in the same room.
Hernandez then began opening up the closet door and searching the room — maybe looking for someone he thought was hiding, Villatoro said. She said he threw a table, which spilled his beer, and hit Villatoro in the head with a gun she said she didn’t know he had with him.
Villatoro said Hernandez told her to “stop playing with him” and told her they would both die, and so would anyone else who came in the room. Then Pokuaa came in to perform a routine check on Villatoro.
Then she said Hernandez walked behind Pokuaa and shot her. That’s when Villatoro said she fully believed Hernandez could kill her.
“He was just telling me to enjoy the time I had with my son,” Villatoro said.
Methodist Hospital Sergeant Robert Rangel, who was down the hall, told jurors he thought the initial gunshot was a lightbulb bursting. He walked toward the sound to see what was wrong and heard a woman later identified as Villatoro screaming hysterically.
Another shot rang out as Rangel and Flowers approached the room, hitting Flowers. A third shot missed Rangel. He said he watched as Flowers clutched her neck, saying she had been hit, dripping blood on the floor.
“I told myself if he came out with a pistol, I only had one option, and that was to make sure that he didn't get out past the room with a gun,” Rangel said.
Rangel then shot Hernandez once in the leg when he appeared in the doorway of Villatoro's room.
During a roughly 10-minute standoff with police captured on Rangel's body camera, Hernandez shouts at Villatoro to give him the baby while she cries for him to stop.
But Villatoro also begged for police not to shoot Hernandez. She testified it was because she had seen too much bloodshed already.
"That was my baby daddy," Villatoro said. "I still had my son and I didn't want them to kill (Hernandez) either."
Once Villatoro managed to throw Hernandez's gun out into the hallway, officers carried Hernandez out of the room and began treating his gunshot wound.
"She cheated on me," he said.
In cross examination, Johnson alluded to Hernandez and Villatoro previously getting in arguments about her alleged infidelity, which she denied. Paternity test results presented for the jury showed Hernandez was the newborn's father.
Pokuaa and Flowers’ family and colleagues filled the gallery of the Dallas courtroom Tuesday. Several wore purple, Flowers’ favorite color.
Kevin Bonsu, an engineer living in Boston and Pokuaa’s brother, also took the witness stand. Bonsu said they were a family of seven siblings. He said Pokuaa came to the U.S. from Ghana in 1998 and ultimately went on to get a master’s degree in social work.
Pokuaa lived in Mansfield and had been working as a social worker at Methodist Dallas for about a year before her death. Bonsu said she leaves behind a 13-year-old son, who went to live in Ghana after his mother died.
Kelly Flowers, Katie Flowers’ daughter, told jurors her mom had been a nurse for 41 years and had spent 15 years working at Methodist Dallas. Katie Flowers leaves behind three other children and four grandchildren, her 30-year-old daughter said.
Lewis asked if Katie Flowers took joy in her work.
“Oh, absolutely,” Kelly Flowers said. “She loved teaching new moms how to breastfeed, how to take care of their new babies.”
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