Suspect, victim are second cousins

A Falls City man wanted in connection with a late Tuesday night shooting was taken into custody at about 2:15 a.m. today in Horton, KS, following a standoff with police. Authorities used tear gas and a flash bomb to flush Hernandez from the residence.

Desiderio C. “Desi” Hernandez, 34, of Falls City, appeared to be suffering from a leg injury when authorities led him away from the scene and a family member today told The Journal they were notified he needed stitches to close a wound. It is not yet known how Hernandez suffered the injury, which appears to be mild. He is being held in Brown County (KS) Jail on a charge of attempted first degree murder. Authorities allege Hernandez fired a shot that struck his second cousin, 31-year-old Joseph Debella, Jr., in the head shortly before midnight Tuesday at a house located directly east of Falls City Middle School (1418 Morton St.).

Debella, of the Kansas City, KS, area, was flown to Bryan Trauma Center West in Lincoln, where he remains in critical condition, though a cousin of both men, Benita Howard, of Ottawa, KS, Thursday by phone said the family had received “positive” reports regarding Debella’s prognosis from medical personnel. In addition, Mrs. Howard, on behalf of the family, urged area citizens to avoid a rush to judgment and asked that people refrain from posting hateful, racist remarks on social media outlets. 

“We don’t know what happened,” Howard said. “We are praying it was an accident, and praying Joey pulls through.” 

Hernandez and Debella grew up together in Wolcott, KS, Howard said, and were “very close.” Hernandez has lived in Falls City for several years, though Debella was visiting and had been in the area for about a month. 

Horton residents, sometime between 8:30 and 9 p.m., were put on high alert with a group emergency text message and told to stay in their homes because a person was barricaded in a residence in the city. 

Hernandez has been charged with attempted murder before. In early July 2013, authorities said Hernandez cut the throat of Damon Gates during at altercation. In December, 2013, after accepting a plea bargain from Richardson County prosecutors, he was sentenced to three years of intensive supervised probation on a felony charge of assault in the second degree.

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