SAN JOSE -- An attempt by an armed citizen to snag a man believed responsible for multiple vehicle break-ins at a large apartment complex went awry Monday when the suspected thief was shot and killed, police said.

According to information released Wednesday, police believe Luis Ricardo Hernandez, 26, fatally shot Christopher Soriano, 36, in the parking garage of the Sunny Breeze Apartments on Lewis Road during a confrontation around 9:40 a.m. Both men are San Jose residents, but police did not specify if Hernandez lived or worked at the apartment complex.

"The preliminary investigation has revealed that the suspect shot the victim during an altercation," states the news release. "The shooting occurred as the suspect was attempting to detain the victim on suspicion of burglarizing vehicles in the neighborhood."

Witnesses at the complex reported hearing an argument, a single shot and screams. Emergency crews attempted to revive Soriano, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

San Jose police Officer Albert Morales said they encourage residents to be watchful, but to get authorities involved rather than attempt to catch suspected criminals themselves.

"Allow us to have the opportunity to go out and take care of it," he said. "There have been many times when we have arrived on scene and been successful apprehending numerous burglary suspects, while still inside the home or just afterward."

He added that citizens shouldn't resort to a potentially lethal confrontation "unless, of course, your life is in danger and you are acting in self-defense, then you have to do what you have to do."


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Morales said police will be reviewing records to see if the area had an abundance of reported auto break-ins, but that information was not available Wednesday night.

According to court records, Soriano has a lengthy criminal history in Santa Clara County, with nearly two dozen cases covering theft-related and weapons offenses and domestic violence. At the time of his death, there was a bench warrant for his arrest.

Records for Hernandez were not available Wednesday. He declined a request for an interview at Santa Clara County Jail, where he is being held without bail. He is scheduled to appear in court Friday.

Soriano's death was the 46th homicide of 2012 in San Jose, the last of a year that saw the highest number since 53 were recorded in 1991.

Contact Robert Salonga at 408-920-5002. Contact Eric Kurhi at 408-920-5852.