Lawyers representing the family of a teen shot and killed in August by LAPD officers in Boyle Heights say they have filed a claim against the City of Los Angeles –a preliminary step before filing a wrongful death lawsuit for the officer involved shooting of 14-year-old Jesse Romero.
The legal action was announced Thursday afternoon in a press conference held in front of LAPD headquarters in downtown Los Angeles. Romero’s mother Teresa Domínguez attended the conference, along with the parents of other young men who were shot this year by LAPD officers in Boyle Heights and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies in East Los Angeles.
Humberto Guízar, one of two attorneys representing Domínguez, said that a recently released video –obtained and published by the LA Weekly– contradicts the LAPD’s account of Romero’s shooting. He and Domínguez asked that the LAPD release videos from cameras worn by officers involved in Romero’s shooting.
“I am here to ask for justice for my son, Jesse Romero,” Domínguez said in Spanish. “I want the officers to show the videos they shot, to make them available to the public.”
“I don’t want [those responsible for] Jesse’s death to remain unpunished.” she added. “He is a human being and all deserve justice, all those who have been killed like him.”
Romero was killed Aug. 9 following a brief pursuit by officers who say they saw him tagging an apartment building with gang graffiti. Officers pursued the teen east on César Chávez Avenue and south on North Breed Street, where the shooting occurred. The LAPD said that as they approached Broad Street officers heard a gunshot, and that a witness saw Romero fire a gun in their direction.
In a statement released last month, the LAPD explained that one of the officers pursuing the teen “saw Romero crouched on the sidewalk with his right arm extended toward the officer. Fearing Romero was going to shoot at them, one officer fired two shots at Romero, striking him twice.”
One witness told the Los Angeles Times that the teen threw the gun over a fence, and that’s when the weapon accidentally fired.
Guízar accused the police of lying about the circumstances of the shooting.
“Since the shooting we have recovered a video that shows there was a gun on the other side of a rod iron fence that was located about 20 feet away from where Mr. Romero’s body came to rest,” Guízar said. “It would have been physically impossible for him to have fired a weapon or have a gun in his hands when he was shot.”
“That is an unequivocal lie,” the attorney pressed. “That statement by the LAPD that he had a gun in his hands was a complete, unequivocal lie.”
On Thursday, an LAPD spokesperson said the Romero case was an ongoing investigation and that the department would not comment on the legal claim.
A call to LAPD Captain Martín Baeza, commanding officer at the Hollenbeck division, was unanswered Thursday afternoon. Baeza has said in the past that Romero’s shooting was the tragic result of an uptick in gang violence in Boyle Heights.
Romero was the fifth person killed in an LAPD officer involved shooting in Boyle Heights this year. He was also the second teen killed by LAPD, following the February 6 shooting of 16-year-old Juan José Méndez.
Méndez’s mom, Josefina Rizo, also addressed the media at Thursday’s press conference. She said the family just received results of an autopsy that showed that her son had 19 bullet wounds. The Méndez shooting is also under investigation and the teen’s family plans to bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the city.
Other speakers at the press conference included representatives from Black Lives Matter LA and Centro CSO, which is organizing a campaign demanding that Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey prosecute LAPD officers involved in the Romero and Méndez shootings, as well as Sheriff’s deputies involved in the February fatal shooting of 24-year-old Edwin Rodríguez in East Los Angeles.
Photo above: Teresa Domínguez (left), Josefina Rizo and María Banda at Thursday’s press conference. The three women are mothers of young men shot by LAPD in Boyle Heights this year.
Watch a video of Teresa Domínguez being interviewed for a local TV station: