Family of unarmed man killed by Long Beach police want federal probe

Family of unarmed man killed by Long Beach police call for U.S. Department of Justice investigation

The family of an unarmed man fatally shot by Long Beach police is calling for an independent investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice into the killing.

Hector Morejon, 19, was shot and killed Thursday by a Long Beach police officer after the officer believed he was pointing a gun at him during a trespassing and vandalism incident.

Morejon’s family issued a statement Saturday demanding that the city and department suspend the officer, as well as provide his name and badge number.

Morejon's family also is requesting that the U.S. Department of Justice conduct a criminal investigation “to determine how and why an unarmed teenage kid was killed.”

They want “justice and accountability” from the Long Beach Police Department.

“Long Beach police should allow an independent inquest,” said Sonia Mercado, one of the family’s attorneys. “How can they investigate themselves?”

Hector’s mother, Lucia Morejon, was at home when she heard the shots, then went to an alley near her home to see what happened, according to the family’s attorneys, R. Samuel Paz and Mercado.

She said she saw a flurry of police activity and then her son lying in an ambulance. He propped himself up and said, “Mommy, mommy, please come, please come,” his attorneys said.

“The only thing replaying in [Lucia Morejon’s] head is, ‘He was talking to me. He reached out,’” Mercado said. “She feels she has a right to know what happened.”

Police said officers received a report that several people were trespassing and vandalizing a vacant apartment in the 1100 block of Hoffman Avenue. They arrived to find an open window in the back of the apartment and a broken window.

An officer looked into the apartment and saw a man standing against a wall, then turn toward him, police said.

The man bent his knees and extended his arm “as if pointing an object, which the officer perceived was a gun,” resulting in an officer-involved shooting, police said.

No weapons were found at the scene. The apartment was spray-painted with gang-related graffiti, police said.

“Objects were collected from the scene, but it has not been yet determined at this point in the investigation if those objects were what the officer observed,” said Sgt. Megan Zabel, a Police Department spokeswoman. “We are not describing evidentiary detail on what those objects are at this time, as with how many times the suspect was shot.” 

Morejon’s family attorney rejected the gang allegation and ties.

The Police Department, Zabel said, moves all officers involved in shootings from their field duties to another position until the administration performs a critical incident review.

From January 2000 to Monday, 41 people have been killed in officer-involved shootings in Long Beach, according to the Los Angeles Times' Homicide Report.

Long Beach has been the 72nd most deadly neighborhood out of L.A. County's 270 neighborhoods, according to a Times analysis of homicide data for that period.

Per 10,000 people, there were 13.78 killings and 12.28 per square mile for that period.

Times staff writer Matt Hamilton contributed to this report.

For breaking news in California, follow @VeronicaRochaLA on Twitter.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

2:21 p.m.: This article was updated with statistics on Long Beach killings from the Homicide Report.

1:46 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from one of the Morejon family's attorneys.

The first version of this article was published at 1:25 p.m.

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