Family Says Man Electrocuted Was Doing Job, Not Stealing Copper

SOUTH GATE (CBS) — Police say a man who was electrocuted was trying to steal copper, but his family claims he was just doing his job maintaining the property.

Jose Fernando Santillanes, 36, of Lynwood, was killed Saturday afternoon after apparently triggering an explosion and flash fire on a vacant lot at 3064 Firestone Blvd. His 3-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son were sitting in a truck just 15 feet away, South Gate police Lt. Keith Hupp said.

Santillanes’ wife, 33-year-old Maria Cortez, was critically burned while trying to pull him away from the vault. She is being treated at the Grossman Burn Center.

Police say they have criminal evidence that indicates he was trying to steal copper from the vault.

“Copper theft has been a problem for the past several years due to the high value of copper,” Hupp said. “Unfortunately sometimes people don’t know when wires are live, and these were definitely live.”

Electrocuted Man Allegedly Tried To Steal Copper Wiring: KNX 1070’s Ed Mertz reports.

However, neighbors who live near the lot say Santillanes was hired to clean up the vacant lot and have seen him doing his job for years.

“Hopefully it all clears up because its not fair that they come here and they work and something like this happened. It’s sad,” neighbor Karla Hernandez said.

(©2010 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

  • NM

    He was also just detailing the car he broke into, and she was just a maid at the house that was burglarized.

  • coxinyourmouth

    NM, I give you 2 thumbs up :)

  • dwguildz

    you guys are all sad

  • Pplthesedays


  • rick

    cleaning an empty lot hummm DOES NOT WASH if he was cleaning the lot why was he messin with wires that are in a closed space (vault) not in the wide open space?? and if he was doing his paid job why was his whole family with him??? who takes their whole family to work with them?? this was not a paid legit job this was theft and it bit him in the rump

    • <\3

      His wife obviously worked with him.
      Who do you think you are, to be juding your a horrible person have some compassion for those kids who just lost thier father.

      • rick

        plain and simple to my mind maybe he was not tryin to steal the copper EVEN THOUGH the police have evidance he was but besides that how smart is it to touch live electrical wires????

  • Jeanette

    WOW! hopefully something something like this happens to your family and let’s see if you’ll still be laughing. don’t be saying rude comments if you don’t know the whole story. MY UNCLE WAS NOT STEALING, and he did not get what he deserved. The only idiots in this world are people making rude and inhumane comments like you! get your facts straight.

  • Yaz

    Jeanette is right… Didn’t your mother teach you any manners. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. However, you don’t have all the facts. You don’t know what kind of lives they had; and, FYI his wife worked with him. You are right!! Why would his whole family be with him? Do you have a brain??? Why would someone rake their family with them, if they planned on stealing. Everyone that steals must know that there is a possibity of getting caught…. Especially in mid day!!!! You people need lives, and something productive to do, since you have so much time on your hands that you can make uninformed, insensitive and rude comments….

  • cobra

    for all your info i am a cop and know as FACT many thiefs take their mate and or kids with them to steel because they think acting as a family takes the heat off them makes them less likely to get caught. and this is real simple why would someone cleaning a empty lot touch power lines of any kind?? so even if he was not stealing he was surely not real wise

    • TheTruth

      how dare you judge this man when you don’t even know him!

  • Maritza

    I persoanlly know this man,he is the gardener at my apartments and I can assure that he is an honest hard-working man because we and other neighbors left valuable items outdoors and he never ever got a thing! We will miss him dearly because he was very friendly and hard-working.He did bring his family to work with him Im sure he had no child care and/or his wife helped him out.


    i shot this video and i always saw this man cleaning

  • john

    if this guy was a maintenance man for years he’s lucky he didn’t kill himself sooner. even 1st grade students know not to mess with live electricity. on the other hand, if he was a criminal, it makes sense. we all know the prisons are overcrowded with rocket scientists.

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