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Family of 14-year-old boy shot by LAPD calls for release of body cam footage

Lawyers representing the mother of a 14-year-old boy who was shot and killed by police in Boyle Heights are calling on the LAPD to release all videos, photographs and other evidence of the shooting.

Demands that authorities release evidence in the death of Jesse Romero -- who reportedly shot at Hollenbeck Division gang officers before he was killed — comes as community leaders implored the city Friday to spend more money on youth programs.

“We are very saddened by the loss of yet another young life in Boyle Heights. A tragedy such as the death of 14-year-old Jesse as well as the drive-by shooting of a 10-year old girl cannot be ignored anymore and we just can’t stand on the sidelines and not do anything,” said Lou Calanche, executive director of Legacy LA, a community-based nonprofit.

“We are asking the city of Los Angeles to prioritize positive youth development resources in our city,” he said. 

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Romero was fatally shot Tuesday afternoon after he fled from police officers who suspected him of writing gang-style graffiti in the area.

For the third day in a row since the shooting, demonstrators gathered at a makeshift shrine near the corner of Breed Street and Cesar Chavez Avenue on Friday afternoon.  Among them were attorneys hired by Romero’s mother, Teresa Dominguez, who called on the LAPD to release footage from the body cameras that the officers were wearing.

 

Jesse Romero
Jesse Romero
(Romero Family )

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The attorneys said there are conflicting accounts about what took place and that the videos would shed light on what happened.

Antonio Rodriguez, one of the two attorneys, said one witness told police that Romero fired at the officers, while another witness  said the boy had tossed the handgun over a fence.

“These cases are usually decided on facts and the LAPD has been very aggressive at promoting the facts as they see them favorable to  their own officers in justifying the shooting,"  said Jorge Gonzalez, the other attorney.

The two men displayed a photo taken by a witness that shows the bloody body of Romero on the sidewalk and officers standing behind a black gate, where a nearby object lies on the ground, reflecting sunlight. The lawyers say the object is the gun Romero threw.

Gonzalez said the photo was provided to the family who provided it to him and his colleague. He said the picture is evidence “with the version that doesn’t favor the LAPD.”

He said the only way to know for sure is for the LAPD to release the videotape images from the body cameras.

“Let the public figure out if this was a wrongful shooting or a justifiable shooting,” Gonzalez said. “We want transparency.”

The attorneys say they plan to file a claim and lawsuit against the city within three months. They say they still have witnesses they must find.

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Romero, who would have turned 15 on Aug. 24, was enrolled in Soledad Enrichment Action’s gang program that works with high-risk teens. Police have not said publicly if Romero was involved in gang activity.

LAPD Deputy Chief Robert Arcos said that one civilian witness told police the boy fired the gun in the direction of police officers. The gun is being tested by investigators.  

Given the circumstances of the shooting, 23 nonprofit organizations in Boyle Heights say they want the city of Los Angeles to create a special department for more youth programs.   

At an earlier gathering Friday, some 30 activists held a news conference in a pocket park opposite the Hollenbeck station.

“We can’t continue to see youth lives as disposable,” Calanche said. “Given that the city spends 70 times more on police than it does on youth, it is critical that as a city we view increased investment in positive youth development programs as a critical public safety strategy.” 

The group said major cities such as New York, Boston and San Francisco have created youth development departments that are funded by city revenues. 

According to the group, Los Angeles invested only $35 million in city-wide youth programs for the fiscal year 2015-16, compared with New York City’s $536-million investment.

“Everyone says that youth are the future, but the city of L.A. doesn’t invest in us or our future,” said Araceli Rodriguez, 17, a youth leader at Legacy LA. 

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ruben.vives@latimes.com

richard.winton@latimes.com

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