‘The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez’ exposes flaws in the system


Essence BoydContributor

In the course of six episodes, Netflix highlights the abuse and systemic failures that led to the death of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez of Palmdale, Calif.

“The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez” was released to the public on Feb. 26 and since then it has been all the craze nailing the spot of the No. 2 most watched Netflix original series in the U.S. in the two weeks it has been out.

While in the care of his mother Pearl Fernandez and her boyfriend Isauro Aguirre, Gabriel endured a vast amount of abuse and torment up until the day of his death.

From starvation to humiliation, Gabriel was made out to be a liar and homosexual when he was just a child in desperate need of being loved.

The series starts with a 911 call made by Pearl the night in 2013 when Gabriel lost consciousness.

“My son is not breathing,” were the first words said to the police during Pearl’s call to dispatchers.

Antelope Valley Hospital trauma nurse Christene Estes recalls the moment when Gabriel was brought into the emergency room and the unexplainable conditions of his body.

“He had a depressed skull fracture. Meaning you could feel his skull. I remember his throat just looked like somebody burned him. Bruising and cuts all over his face. Blacks eyes, cuts everywhere he had a weird cut above his penis. He had abrasions above his foot like he had been dragged. Ligature marks on his ankles like he had been tied up. Every part of his body there was something,” said Estes.

After being revived three times in the hospital by paramedics and nurses, Gabriel died.

From this moment on, the documentary becomes more and more heartbreaking leaving you with the same question of “why,” after each episode.

When watching this series you want to place blame. However, there are just too many people to hold accountable. From the Child Protective Services workers to the Los Angeles Police Department Gabriel was failed every step of the way and not just by the hands that took his life.

In the documentary it is stated that in numerous cases the L.A.P.D. visited the Fernandez household and reported no signs of of abuse. In the series a time is described when authorities visit the home in response to claims of abuse and were informed by Pearl that Gabriel was lying as he was beat up by neighborhood children. In return the police place him in the back of the squad car to scare him instead of helping him.

The most disturbing part of hearing about the horrors Gabriel had to endure were his living conditions. Despite there being a warm and clean bed for him to sleep in, the 8-year-old was subjected to sleep in a cubical in the room of his caretakers, where he was blindfolded and chained up. To add to this cruel punishment he was fed cat litter on numerous occasions.

The ignorance and laziness on every level of the system will leave you frustrated and angry as if just one person would have done their job and done it correctly there is no telling how the story of Gabriel Fernandez would have been different.

According to many of Gabriels family members and his teacher, he was full of love, potential and loved his mother dearly. During the docuseries his teacher recalls a time where he was beaten by his mother and her boyfriend but took part in the making of Mother’s day gifts.

“The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez” was not the celebration of the life of bright boy. It was a microscope into a failing system. Everyone should watch The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez to know what the signs of child abuse looks like. Children are the future but there is not going to be anyone to correct the system if they do not make it through it alive.

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