A 14-year-old vandalism suspect was shot dead by the LAPD on August 9. Authorities say that the teenager fired on officers first. The LAPD’s gang unit was deployed to the Boyle Heights neighborhood at around 5:35 p.m. on the day of the shooting after a report of vandalism. Responding officers chased a suspect, named as Jesse James Romero, after a short pursuit, the teenager was killed. Another suspected vandal was questioned by police and released shortly after.
Neither officer was harmed in the incident.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The LAPD’s Deputy Chief Cited a ‘Witness’ Who Saw Romero Shoot at the Cops
In a press briefing on August 10, LAPD Deputy Chief Robert Arcos said:
According to a witness who saw the subject running from the officers, the witness saw the subject shoot a handgun in the direction of the pursuing officers.
While the loss of life is always tragic, it is particularly so when the loss involves a youth.
CNN reports that Romero was pronounced dead at the scene. The network adds that the loaded handgun that was found close to his body is being examined by forensics.
Arcos also said that vandalism call was gang related but didn’t name Romero as a member of a gang. The incident occurred in the area of Chicago Street and Cesar Chavez Avenue, reports KPCC.
2. Romero’s Mother Called Her Son a ‘Good Kid’ & Questioned the LAPD’s Account
In an interview with ABC Los Angeles, Romero’s mother, Teresa Dominguez, said while crying that her son was a “good kid” while also questioning the LAPD’s account of what happened. Dominguez told KPCC that, “He was a good boy. He didn’t do anything violent.” The radio station reports that the family has lived in Boyle Heights since 2009 and that Dominguez works as a vegetable packer.
The Los Angeles Times reports that Romero was born in Puebla, Mexico, and was 1-year-old when his mother brought him to the U.S. A family friend, Diane Covarrbuias, told the Times that Romero was enrolled in an anti-gang program. She also paid tribute to Romero on her Instagram page:
While another family member told the ABC affiliate that Romero would never have had a gun and that he was a normal teenager who liked sports. His cousin said, “Just a kid, running up and down the streets, having fun, going to the park, playing basketball.”
Meanwhile, a family friend, Lourdes Miranda, told KPCC, that Romero was in a gang saying, “Yeah he was in the gangs and everything but he was a good kid.” She also said that she didn’t know if Romero would have had a gun saying, “Kids are dumb, they think it makes them cool or whatever…he didn’t deserve this.”
3. A Vigil Was Held for Romero in Mariachi Plaza Los Angeles on the Night of August 10
A Go Fund Me page has been set up to help Romero’s family pay for funeral costs. The page reads, “We need justice for my little cousin he was just like any other 14-year-old boy always happy and never a trouble kid he was an innocent boy.”
A vigil was held for Romero and other victims of police violence in the Boyle Heights community at Mariachi Plaza on the night of August 10, according to the event’s Facebook page.
4. The Crime Rate in Boyle Heights Is Slightly Above the National Average
During his press briefing, Deputy Chief Arcos said:
In a community where violent crime continues to rise, particularly gang crime, this event underscores the need for youth programs and outreach, which provide opportunities and alternatives for the youth of our communities.
Online records show that the crime rate in the Boyle Heights section of Los Angeles is only slightly higher than the national average.
A Boyle Heights resident, Maria Ramirez, told the Los Angeles Times in the aftermath of Romero’s shooting, “The violence here in Boyle Heights is escalating… I feel the loss. I have a 16-year-old. But I feel for the officers too. They are overwhelmed.”
5. The Shooting Came the Day Before Black Lives Matter Activists Demanded the Resignation of the LAPD’s Chief
On August 8, an LAPD police commission recommended no charges for the officers who killed homeless woman Redel Jones, 30, in July 2015. In response, a Black Lives Matter protest group marched on city hall and demanded that Mayor Eric Garcetti remove Beck.
In the incident, authorities say Jones was armed with a knife and was being chased by police because she matched the description of a robbery suspect.
KPCC notes in their report on Romero’s shooting that “Generally LAPD Chief Charlie Beck opposes making body camera video available.”
Romero is the youngest suspect to be shot by the LAPD since a 13-year-old boy was wounded by officers in 2010. That shooting saw the department pay the boy’s family $15 million.