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Father of Five Fatally Shot near Taqueria

By Becky Schlikerman | November 15, 2012 9:31am | Updated on November 20, 2012 12:52pm
 Juan Hernandez, 41, was fatally shot in the 2600 block of South Tripp Avenue in Little Village.
Juan Hernandez, 41, was fatally shot in the 2600 block of South Tripp Avenue in Little Village.
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CHICAGO — Members of the large, tight-knit family wanted to be there when they met to talk about Juan Hernandez, their beloved brother and son.

So Juan Hernandez’s siblings, parents and a niece gathered at his parents' Little Village home — a block away from the spot where Hernandez was killed.

Hernandez, 41 and a father of five, had been at Los Gallos, a taqueria on 26th Street, after taking a neighbor to the hospital. The teenager had been hit in the head and needed medical attention, Hernandez’s family said.

Surveillance video from the restaurant viewed by the family showed Hernandez walking in and shaking hands with a man, as if they knew each other, the siblings said. Then it appeared an argument ensued and the two men pointed to the door, as if to say, “Let’s take this outside.”

Hernandez apparently walked out of the restaurant and Nicholas Hernandez, 33, of Berwyn, allegedly pulled up in a SUV and shot Hernandez, court records show. They are not related.

“I don’t know why he stopped at this restaurant,” said his sister, Elsa Perez, 45.

The family also said they don’t know why he allegedly argued with Nicholas Hernandez.

As a young man, he had been involved with neighborhood gangs, his family said. But he had left that lifestyle behind, they said.

The family has lived in Little Village for more than 20 years. Hernandez moved back into the neighborhood from Plainfield after he separated from his wife.

Hernandez worked for more than two decades as an engineer/conductor for the Metra Union Pacific, his family said.

When the family gathered on Sundays at their parents' home for dinners of enchiladas and tostadas, Hernandez would tell the family stories of life on the railroad.

“He always had stories about something or another,” Perez said. “Out of a bad situation, he’d make it funny.”

An athletic man, Hernandez — known as “El Guapo” (the handsome one) — rode his bike to work downtown and was an avid runner. He had run the Boston Marathon once and the Chicago Marathon twice, his family said.

He also had just completed medical testing to determine if he could donate a kidney so that his sister could receive a new kidney from another donor.

Out of six children, he was the second youngest but he was the oldest boy.

“He kind of took care of all of us,” Perez said. “He acted like the oldest.”