The Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council approved a resolution calling on the LAPD to release all video and photographic evidence pertinent to this month’s officer involved fatal shooting of 14-year-old Jesse Romero.
The “Resolution on Police Transparency” passed on a 12-3 vote at the body’s regular board meeting Wednesday night. The resolution also calls on the District Attorney’s office and the Police Commission to thoroughly investigate the Aug. 9 shooting of the boy, who was reportedly involved in gang-related vandalism.
The resolution was the final item on the meeting’s agenda and was passed after 9 p.m., when a few board members had already left the meeting. Although the resolution itself is non-binding, board president Mynor Godoy said it would become the council’s official stance on a subject that has polarized much of the Boyle Heights community.
While some community activists have been extremely critical of the officers’ role in the shooting, many Bole Heights residents have turned to social media to point out the teen’s apparent involvement in gang activity as a way of justifying the police action.
Earlier in the evening, during a public comment section, Captain Martín Baeza of the Hollenbeck Division addressed the council and about 30 audience members present. He offered an official version of the teen’s shooting, which allegedly happened after the boy fired a shot at police. Baeza added some new detail, like the fact that he arrived at the scene shortly after the shooting and that it was he who who initially identified Romero as a 20-year-old man.
Baeza also acknowledged there were conflicting versions from witnesses about the shooting and confirmed there was footage from body worn cameras, but that it is within LAPD policy not to release it because it is considered evidence. He then went on to say there has been an uptick in gang-related violence in Boyle Heights this year and that he attributed that partly to lack of opportunities for area youth.
“I’m here to see what we can do together to address this issue of violence,” Baeza said. “I”m asking for a partnership, because police can’t do it by themselves.”
In keeping with council policy, there were no board member responses to Baeza’s statements. Although the Hollenbeck captain was allowed to speak longer than the two minutes allotted to public speakers, he was cut off before he could finish his presentation. Baeza, who left shortly after his presentation, was not present when the transparency resolution was voted on –or during discussion, when several board members were critical of him and the LAPD.
In other business, the Council held a lengthy and somewhat complicated election to fill in four vacant seats in the Planning and Land Use Committee. There was some discussion and public comment on the nomination of the Japanese American Hospital as a HIstorical Cultural Monument, but no action was taken on the matter.
During public comment, several audience members spoke about the abundance of bulky items and trash on some Boyle Heights streets, and one person specifically asked if something could be done about César Chávez Avenue being always dirty.
Photo above: Board member Sol Márquez listens while Captain Martín Baeza speaks before Neighborhood Council during Wednesday’s meeting.