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On Feb. 17 at approximately 11 p.m. Javier Hernandez Morales shot at a sheriff's officer and she returned fire in self-defense. Thankfully she was unharmed. Unfortunately he was not; he lost his life that day.

To the officer who had to make the difficult choice to pull the trigger, our family is so very sorry. As much as we are hurting because we lost a beloved member of our family, we can only imagine the pain you are in.

As the decision to discharge your firearm on a person is never an easy decision to make. Our family wants you to know you are in our thoughts and prayers as much as Javier.

Javier was a man with many demons he fought. Drug and alcohol addiction where his means of coping with strong bouts of depression he experienced on and off in his lifetime, as he had limited access to mental health services. He would seek peace in nature and the outskirts of town to calm his mind and that is where he was found that day.

As a family we fought hard for him and as any family who has experienced the horror that is mental health and substance abuse can tell you, it was a hard fight to fight. He was a brother; he was an uncle; he was a father and he was greatly loved.

But on that tragic night we lost the fight. Through the officer he found his way out of the pain at last.

Our family has chosen to stay quiet in an attempt to heal our own pain and protect our children from the onslaught of anger and hate that has begun to engulf our family. But after reading the article regarding Immigration and Customs Enforcement, we felt the need to speak out.

For a decade his hands tended to our vineyards that kept the engine that is Napa Valley going.

His contribution to our beautiful Napa Valley contributed to our state's strength and the strength of our country as does millions of illegal immigrants every day.

But we as Americans, we as Napa residents, have turned our back to the truth of the pain of our country for far too long.

And as such turned our back on him.

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We can build walls. We can keep people who do not look like us and do not speak our language out as much as we want. And nothing will change. Because we are rotting from the inside out.

We have lost the understanding that we are humans first and foremost. And we have lost our ability to relate to the rest of humanity from our place of relative affluence in comparison to the rest of the world.

You cannot ignore the pain and anguish of an individual and expect to have a safe, strong country.

As a city, as a state and as a nation we do not value mental health. We ignore the pain of mental health conditions and the subsequent substance abuse caused from self-medication. We treat it as a lack of strength instead of the call for help it is.

How many more tragedies do we need before we heed the call for change? How many more Thousand Oaks mass shootings and Yountville Veterans Home shootings do we need before we learn we cannot just pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and make things ok sometimes?

How many more police-involved shootings do we need before we come together in unity and say that the suffering of our neighbors needs to end and we need to provide the help they need to prevent these tragedies?

How many more tragedies do we need before we face the facts that mental illness scares us because we don't understand it and it is human nature to fear that which we don't understand.

Until this is addressed our country will never change and we will never be safe. For this is not a plight of illegal immigration, this is the plight of Americans everywhere. For mental illness and substance abuse affects the rich and the poor. The whites, blacks and Mexicans. It affects men and women, the old and the young. It doesn't just affect fringe groups in society but touches everyone.

Jodi Hernandez,

on behalf of the Hernandez Family

Napa

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