District Attorney

Posted on: May 12, 2017

Findings from Investigation into Fatal Stabbing in 2016 in Lancaster City

An update is being provided on the investigation into the death of 20-year-old Hiram Calderon, who was fatally stabbed on Sept. 7, 2016, in Lancaster city.

We are releasing detailed information at this time because our office and Lancaster city police investigators were finally able to meet with the Calderon family, and their lawyer, on Wednesday, May 10, and discuss the case in detail, show the related video footage, as well as answer their questions. The initial meeting with the family in September of 2016 was postponed when the family expressed wishes to obtain an attorney for the meeting.

We delayed public release of information until they and their attorney were prepared. Now that the meeting has taken place, we want to provide detailed narrative of the incident, as supported by surveillance video, witness statements, and forensic evidence:

Police responded to a reported stabbing at approximately 9:38 p.m. at Beaver Street and Conestoga Street, Lancaster. Upon arrival, officers found Calderon with a stab wound to his left side and laceration on his left arm. Calderon, stabbed twice, was declared dead about two hours later at Lancaster General Hospital.

A second individual (Male #2 for purposes of this release) was immediately identified as being involved in the stabbing incident, which happened during a verbal conflict over a female who was present during the entire altercation and stabbing.

Both males were well known by the female and they knew of each other but had never met each other.

Police interviews of witnesses established the following:

Earlier that night, the female requested Male #2 via text messaging to walk her home after her shift at a nearby grocery store. The female asked Male #2 to escort her because she felt Calderon had been following/stalking her. Calderon had text-messaged/called her about 15 times that day. Forensic review of her cell phone corroborate that.

Male #2 responded to walk her home and they left the store at approximately 9:30 p.m. As the two were leaving, Calderon appeared on his bike. Calderon put his bike on the ground and began to confront Male #2, telling Male #2 he needed to leave and that the female was his girlfriend.

Male #2 and the female repeatedly tried to walk away from Calderon but he continued to block Male #2’s path and placed his body in very close proximity to Male #2. This went on for approximately five minutes as Male #2 continued to try and avoid Calderon but each time he changed directions, Calderon would do the same to block his path.

While Male #2 and the female attempted to get away from Calderon, Calderon made verbal threats of hurting Male #2 and that he would get someone to hurt the female.

Calderon repeatedly continued to block Male #2 as he tried to walk away from him, and, at one point, tried to hold Male #2 in front of traffic while threatening Male #2 and the female.

At least four independent eyewitnesses, none of whom knew any of the parties, were interviewed during the investigation and provided similar accounts of what happened. One witness observed Calderon pushing and shoving Male #2 and heard Calderon cursing and yelling at the woman. Another witness observed Calderon gripping Male #2’s shirt and Male #2 trying to get free from Calderon, prior to the stabbing.

The witnesses did not see punches and indicated the male – later identified as Calderon – was clearly the aggressor. One witness described him (Calderon) as “amped up” and felt bad for the other male because he did not want to fight. Another witness said the male identified as Calderon was “all over” the other male and would not let him walk away. In fact, these witnesses said they stopped the vehicle they were riding in because they were concerned for Male #2.

Male #2, who had called 911 and remained at the scene, provided a lengthy statement to police after the incident. He reported that Calderon, whom he had never met previously, kept telling Male #2 to “fight me or I’ll stab you.” Male #2 stated he made numerous efforts to get away from Calderon but Calderon stayed right in his face, pushing him, shoving him, and threatening him.

Male #2 said he only stabbed Calderon when Calderon got “really close” with a hand in his (Calderon’s) pocket and after Calderon had made repeated threats to stab him. Male #2 said he did not pull or show his own knife prior to that point because he feared Calderon would pull his knife as well. It should be noted that Calderon is considerably taller than Male #2.

Male #2 stated he believed Calderon was going to get his knife from his pocket and that he was going to be stabbed and that he could not leave the female because Calderon had threatened her as well and indicated he was armed with a knife.

Calderon was stabbed twice. After the first stab, Male #2 made no effort to approach Calderon and simply stood there. After being stabbed once, Calderon hesitates, then approaches and re-engages Male #2. Male #2 then stabs Calderon a second time. This time, Calderon breaks away from Male #2 and collapses shortly thereafter.

Calderon was in fact armed with a knife. When emergency responders arrived, the knife was on the street, out of his pocket, right next to Calderon.  

Video surveillance footage, from different cameras, corroborated statements provided by witnesses. Specifically, video footage shows Calderon walking in front of Male #2 and Male #2 trying to move in different directions to avoid him. Prior to the stabbing, Calderon shoves Male #2 at least twice with enough force that caused Male #2 to stumble a few steps.

The applicable surveillance footage was disjointed due to the cameras rotating on a cycle. Video of the final confrontation was shot from a distance, but it does generally corroborate the above description.

Our office, having received numerous reports and pieces of information from Lancaster city police, to include review of the text messages, as well as video surveillance footage of the incident, has determined no criminal charges are to be filed. The evidence to establish any criminal actions on the part of Male #2, under the law, simply does not exist.

We are making our findings public as we do not foresee, based on video footage and witness interviews, a change in that determination. However, we reserve the option of exploring the case further should pertinent information surface.

It should be noted this has been a thorough investigation and our determination was not reached due to lack of information/evidence. The determination was made after careful review of the law and meticulous consideration of the circumstances.

A few key points to support our determination:

- The relevant legal standard which would be in issue in this case is, in essence, that a person has the right to use deadly force if they have a reasonable belief that they are about to be killed or suffer serious bodily injury. A person cannot claim that justification if they initiate, or further, the incident.

- Calderon initiated this incident. Male #2 did not seek out Calderon and was only present to walk home the female who had indicated to him that Calderon was a threat to her.

- Calderon was the aggressor in that he confronted Male #2 and the female as the female was leaving her evening work shift. Calderon maintained that role of aggressor as he repeatedly blocked Male #2’s path, pushed and shoved him, and insistently threatened Male #2 and the female. At one point, Calderon tried to hold Male #2 in front of traffic.

-Male #2 made repeated efforts to get away from Calderon over approximately five minutes.

- Calderon was armed with a knife.

- Calderon repeatedly threatened the life of Male #2 and was reaching into his pocket during the encounter, before Male #2 acted.

- Male #2 did not follow up the first stab with a second stab until Calderon engaged him again. Even after that, Male # 2 did not pursue Calderon.

- Male #2 was cooperative with police throughout the process. After stabbing Calderon, he called 9-1-1 and provided information, and stayed on scene awaiting arrival of police.

- The female corroborated Male #2’s description of events.

- Independent witnesses and surveillance video evidence corroborates reports from Male #2 as to Calderon being the aggressor confronting Male #2 and not allowing Male #2 to flee the situation.

Given all the above, to include the relevant law and evidence we obtained, it is clearly not reasonable to conclude Male #2 was guilty of any crime.

This incident is a tragic reminder of the potentially deadly consequences of attempting to resolve issues with threats and/or violence. Both men were armed with knives and one person’s life has been lost. We are hopeful people will take note of this unfortunate case and remember that violence on any level is simply not the answer to any personal/relationship issues.

 MEDIA CONTACT: Brett A. Hambright, 717-295-2041; bhambright@co.lancaster.pa.us; Twitter: @BrettHambright

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