New Jersey-based U.S. District Judge Esther Salas, speaking publicly for the first time since a “monster” fatally shot her son and wounded her husband, said she believes she was targeted because of her position, and insisted that his death “cannot be in vain.”
Salas said in a video released Monday morning that she and her husband – who is in the hospital recovering from three gunshot wounds – “are living every parent’s worst nightmare” as they make the necessary plans to bury their 20-year-old son, Daniel Mark, who was shot and killed on July 19.
“Two weeks ago, my life as I knew it changed in an instant and my family will never be the same,” Salas said at the start of a more than nine-minute video. “A madman, who I believe was targeting me because of my position as a federal judge, came to my house. Our family had just finished a weekend celebration in honor of our son, Daniel Mark – his 20th birthday.”
Salas, seated in Newark, said her son stayed behind that Sunday morning and went back to sleep while she and her husband, defense attorney Mark Anderl, went to church. Later on, they were cleaning their North Brunswick home from the weekend’s festivities.
“Daniel and I went downstairs to the basement and we were chatting as we always do. Daniel said, ‘Mom, let’s keep talking. I love talking to you,’” Salas said, often appearing to hold back tears. “And it was at that exact moment that the doorbell rang, and Daniel looked at me and said, ‘Who is that?’”
Before she could respond, the youngest Anderl ran upstairs.
“Within seconds,” she paused, “I heard the sound of bullets and someone screaming, ‘No!’ I later learned that this monster, who had a FedEx package in his hand, opened fire. But Daniel, being Daniel, protected his father, and he took the shooter’s first bullet directly to the chest.”
Daniel was shot one time in the chest, but could not be saved. Mark Anderl has undergone multiple surgeries and is still recovering at an area hospital, Salas said in the video.
“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,” Salas said.
Salas’ attacker, self-described “anti-feminist” attorney Roy Den Hollander, had a “complete dossier” on her and the family, including where they lived and even where they went to church, she said.
“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,” Salas continued.
She stressed that not everyone agrees with federal judges’ decisions, which “will be scrutinized.” She said the job requires that they make “tough calls,” including those that might upset people.
“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 personal information and target us,” she said. “At the moment there is nothing we can do to stop it and that is unacceptable. My son’s death cannot be in vain, 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.”
Den Hollander had a gender-equity lawsuit, filed in 2015, that was being heard by Salas. It involved a young woman who wanted to register for the military draft. He also mentioned the judge in writings posted online, deriding her as a ladder-climber who traded on her Hispanic heritage to get ahead.
The 72-year-old was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on July 20, the day after the ambush, in the town of Rockland in New York’s Sullivan County, law enforcement officials said.
A package addressed to Salas was found along with the lawyer’s body, the officials said.
Also among Hollander’s belongings was information about New York Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, state court spokesperson Lucian Chalfen confirmed to Fox News at the time.
The information included her photograph, her name, and the address for the Court of Appeals in Albany, Chalfen said.
Authorities believe Hollander also shot and killed a fellow attorney in California in the days before the attack at Salas' home.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.