Federal Judge Esther Salas has spoken out for the first time following the fatal shooting at her family home in New Brunswick, New Jersey.
A man dressed in a FedEx uniform entered Judge Salas’s house on July 19 and opened fire, killing her son and critically injuring her husband.
The gunman was later identified as the prominent anti-feminist lawyer Roy Den Hollander, who committed suicide back at his New York residence shortly after the attack.
Den Hollander, who had terminal cancer at the time, previously had called Judge Salas “a lazy and incompetent Latina judge” when she presided over his legal challenge to the male-only military draft.
In her comments, Judge Salas called for greater protections for the judiciary to “ensure that no one ever has to experience this kind of pain”.
Salas began by recounting the “glorious” 20th birthday celebrations she had spent with her son, Daniel Anderl, and his Catholic University friends on the weekend of the attack.
She said that after returning from church, she went down into the basement to help Daniel “clean up from the weekend festivities.”
“We were chatting, as we always do, and Daniel said, ‘Mom, let’s keep talking. I love talking to you, Mom,’ and it was at that exact moment that the doorbell rang,” she said, pausing as she struggled to hold back her tears.
“And Daniel looked at me and said, ‘Who is that?’ Before I could say a word, he sprinted upstairs. Within seconds, 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. The monster then turned his attention to my husband and began to shoot at my husband, one shot after another.”
After stopping to catch her breath, she added: “While my husband is still in the hospital recovering from his multiple surgeries, we are living every parents’ worst nightmare, making preparations to bury our only child, Daniel.”
Many have paid tribute to her son since the attack. The president of Catholic University of America in Washington DC described Daniel Arderl as a “rising junior” at the college and said staff and students “all mourn and grieve this loss to our University community.”
His former high school, St Joseph’s in Metuchen, New Jersey, also released a statement, saying that “Dan was a true friend, a proud Falcon, and an overall wonderful human being”. The school added that they would “pray for Dan’s family and friends during this unbelievably difficult time — please know, we are mourning with you.”
Judge Salas thanked “everyone who reached out and to everyone who said a prayer” but added a plea for “everyone to help me ensure that no one ever has to experience this kind of pain.”
She said that the attack was only possible because “the monster knew where I lived and where and what church we attended and had a complete dossier on me and my family.”
Judge Salas argued that it was wrong that judges’ “personal information, like our home addresses, can easily be obtained by anyone seeking to do us or our families harm.”
“We may not be able to stop something like this from happening again,” she said. “But we can make it hard for those who target us to track us down.”
“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.”