US District Judge Esther Salas broke her silence on the shooting at her New Jersey home last month that left her son dead and her husband injured, pleading for those in power to protect the lives of federal judges.
Salas released a nine-minute recorded statement Monday, detailing the tragic day a gunman — suspected to be a men's rights activist lawyer — targeted her family at their home. They had just spent the weekend celebrating her son Daniel Anderl's 20th birthday.
"Two weeks ago, my life as I knew it changed in an instant, and my family will never be the same," Salas said in the video. "A madman, who I believe was targeting me because of my position as a federal judge, came to my house."
Salas said her family had begun cleaning up their house after hosting Daniel's birthday during a "glorious" weekend "filled with love and laughter and smiles," along with a few of his Catholic University of America friends.
She said she and her son were in the basement of their house on July 19.
"We were chatting as we always do and Daniel said, 'Mom, let's keep talking. I love talking to you,'" Salas recalled as she broke down in tears.
"And it was at that exact moment that the doorbell rang and Daniel looked at me and said 'Who is that?' and before I could say a word he sprinted upstairs," she said. "Within seconds, I heard the sound of bullets and someone screaming 'No!'"
Salas said she later learned the gunman had a FedEx package in his hand as he opened fire.
"But Daniel being Daniel protected his father and he took the shooter's first bullet directly to the chest," Salas said.
The gunman then shot her 63-year-old husband, Mark Anderl, three times. One bullet entered his right chest, another his left abdomen, and the third his right forearm. She said that her husband was still in the hospital recovering from multiple surgeries.
"We are living every parent's worst 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."
Salas then urged those in power to find a way to "safeguard the privacy of federal judges" and to make it harder to track them down.
She said federal judges like her are often required to make "tough calls" and that those calls "can leave people angry and upset."
"That comes with the territory and we accept that," she said. "What we cannot accept is when we are forced to live in fear for our lives because personal information like our home addresses can easily be obtained by anyone seeking to do us or our families harm."
She said the home addresses of current federal judges, as well as other private information, are readily available on the internet, and that companies sell personal details that can be "leveraged for nefarious purposes."
"In my case, the monster knew where I lived, what church we attended, and had a complete dossier on me and my family," she said. "At the moment there is nothing we can do to stop it, and that is unacceptable."
The suspected shooter, Roy Den Hollander, was a misogynistic men's rights activist lawyer, who was later found dead in his car of an apparent suicide two hours away in upstate New York, according to officials.
He had a photo of another woman judge and a piece of paper with her name typed on it, prompting authorities to believe he had sought other potential targets.
Salas, who was nominated by President Barack Obama in 2010, was the first Latina woman to serve as a federal judge in New Jersey and has presided over several high-profile cases.
She was also the judge in a case in which Den Hollander pushed to overturn the military's men-only draft and had ruled in favor of his client.
Den Hollander had repeatedly made derogatory statements about the judge's gender and race in his online writings and had expressed a personal grudge against her in a more than 1,700-page autobiography uploaded on March 22.
"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," Salas said in her statement.
"Now, more than ever, we need to identify a solution that keeps the lives of federal judges private. Let me be clear and tell you firsthand, this is a matter of life and death, and we can't just sit back and wait for another tragedy to strike," she said.