A jury was seated Wednesday for the trial of a man accused of killing his roommate following an argument at their Desert Hot Springs apartment, then threatening to kill the victim’s girlfriend.
Opening statements are slated Wednesday afternoon in an Indio courtroom in the case against 49-year-old Brian Keith Hernandez, who’s charged with murder, assault with a gun and making criminal threats, along with sentence-enhancing firearm allegations.
Hernandez allegedly shot 49-year-old Steven Nelson in the head just before 10 p.m. on Feb. 28, 2017, after telling the victim and his girlfriend that they had to move out of the unit the three were sharing at the Estancia Apartments, 13355 Verbena Drive. Nelson died the following day at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs.
The night of the shooting, a Desert Hot Springs police officer saw Hernandez pacing back and forth outside the apartment complex. According to a prosecutor’s trial brief, he allegedly told the officer “Just check me and cuff me, I shot the guy upstairs,” and a .38-caliber revolver was found on a kitchen table.
Prosecutors allege that an argument between Nelson and his girlfriend prompted the defendant to tell the couple that they had to move out.
Four weeks after the argument, Hernandez insisted again, but Nelson and his girlfriend said they needed a few extra days.
“You are gonna get out tomorrow, I don’t give a (expletive)” Hernandez allegedly told them, according to the brief. “No, if you don’t get out, it’s gonna go down. It’s gonna go down tomorrow night if you don’t get out of here.”
The brief alleges that Nelson and Hernandez got into an argument later that night in the apartment’s kitchen, and Nelson’s girlfriend, who was in a nearby bedroom, heard the defendant say, “So you want to play games?”
Nelson allegedly responded by saying, “Nah man. I’m not playing any games. What are you talking about? There is no games being played.”
The girlfriend later heard a gunshot, then ran out to find Nelson bleeding on the floor, according to the prosecution. She alleged Hernandez then pointed the gun at her and asked her if she also wanted to get shot, prompting her to run from the apartment, according to the brief.
Hernandez is being held on $1 million bail.