A federal judge whose son was killed and husband injured after a gunman opened fire into her New Jersey home last month spoke out for the first time since the shooting in an emotional video.
Through tears, U.S. District Judge Esther Salas described the moments leading up to her son’s death and said she believes she was the intended target of the attack because of her position. She pleaded for stronger protection of federal judges, including restricting public access to their personal information.
“My son’s death cannot be in vain,” Salas said, “which is why I am begging those in power to do something to help my brothers and sisters on the bench. Now more than ever, we need to identify a solution that keeps the lives of federal judges private.”
Watch Salas’ video:
Investigators believe Roy Den Hollander, a self-described “anti-feminist” lawyer who had a case before Salas, showed up to her home in North Brunswick, New Jersey, on July 19 dressed as a FedEx delivery driver.
In her video, Salas said she had been in the basement with her son, 20-year-old Daniel Anderl, when Den Hollander rang the doorbell. Anderl went upstairs to answer the door and was immediately fired upon. Her husband, criminal defense attorney Mark Anderl, was shot three times and remains hospitalized.
Hours after the shooting, police discovered the body of Den Hollander, 72, along a road in upstate New York. He died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, investigators said.
Den Hollander reportedly carried with him a list of more than a dozen possible targets, including Salas, three other female judges and a rival men’s rights attorney named Marc Angelucci.
Eight days before opening fire at Salas’ home, Den Hollander shot Angelucci outside his home in San Bernadino County, California, investigators said.
The ambush on Salas’ family came amid a skyrocketing number of threats against federal judges, whose security is overseen by the U.S. Marshals Service, an overstretched agency that says it needs additional resources to develop better ways of understanding when to deploy threat-based protective details. Federal judges typically only receive individual protection outside the courthouse when there’s a heightened threat to their lives.
In the 2019 fiscal year, the Marshals Service said there were 4,449 threats and inappropriate communications against its protected persons ― a massive increase from 2015, when it recorded just 926 threats. The jump, according to the agency, was at least partially attributable to “improved effectiveness in data collection and reporting of potential threats.”
In her video, Salas, the first Hispanic woman to serve as a federal judge in New Jersey, called for a “national dialogue” to find a way to safeguard the privacy of federal judges.
“Unfortunately for my family, the threat was real and the free flow of information from the internet allowed this sick and depraved human being to find all our information and target us,” Salas said.
Currently, federal judges’ addresses and other information is readily available on the internet. In addition, there are companies that will sell your personal details that can be leveraged for nefarious purposes. In my case, the monster knew where I lived and what church we attended and had a complete dossier on me and my family. At the moment, there is nothing we can do to stop it and that is unacceptable. ...
This is a matter of life and death. We can’t just sit back and wait for another tragedy to strike.
Salas said she and her son, a student at Catholic University in Washington, had been cleaning up from a small gathering the family had hosted to celebrate his birthday moments before he was killed.
″We are living every parent’s worse nightmare: making preparations to bury our only child, Daniel,” Salas said. “My family has experienced a pain that no one should ever have to endure. And I am here asking everyone to help me ensure that no one ever has to experience this kind of pain.”
She added: “We may not be able to stop something like this from happening again. But we can make it hard for those who target us to track us down.”