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Mother of 14-year-old boy killed by LAPD in Boyle Heights files legal claim

Mother of 14-year-old boy killed by LAPD in Boyle Heights files legal claim
A memorial set up for Jesse Romero in his mother's home in Boyle Heights. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

The mother of a 14-year-old boy shot and killed by Los Angeles police this summer in Boyle Heights filed a legal claim against the city Thursday, alleging that police used excessive force.

Jesse Romero's mother held a picture of her son Thursday outside the LAPD's downtown headquarters, where she and her attorney demanded that police release video of the deadly encounter and hold the officers involved accountable.

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"I want justice," his mother, Teresa Dominguez, told reporters. "He didn't deserve to die the way that they killed him."

Officer Tony Im, an LAPD spokesman, declined to comment on the claim, saying the department "does not comment on pending litigation." The legal claim sets the stage for a lawsuit over Romero's death.

The deadly Aug. 9 encounter prompted protests and criticism of the LAPD as conflicting accounts spread through the neighborhood where Romero was killed about the events leading up to the shooting.

Police say the 14-year-old was with two others behind an apartment complex near Chicago Street and Cesar Chavez Avenue, tagging gang-type graffiti when gang officers approached. The three bolted, the LAPD said, with Romero "grabbing his front waistband."

As they approached Breed Street, officers heard a gunshot, police have said, adding that a witness saw Romero fire a handgun in the direction of the officers.

One of the officers then saw Romero crouched on the sidewalk with his arm extended, police said in a statement. "Fearing Romero was going to shoot at them," the officer fired two shots.

One woman, however, told The Times she saw the teenager throw a gun toward a fence. The gun hit the fence and fell onto the ground, she said, and then she heard it fire.

The woman, who would only identify herself by her first name, Norma, said Romero turned around and appeared startled. She heard two more gunshots and Romero fell to the ground, she said.

"He didn't shoot," she said.

Dominguez's attorney, Humberto Guizar, said video captured after the shooting showed the gun on the other side of the fence, away from Romero's body. He accused the LAPD of fabricating their account.

"If he was aiming a gun, please show us the body camera [video]," Guizar said. "We have evidence now on its face that shows, very clearly, that he did not have a gun in his hand."

As Guizar and Dominguez spoke to reporters, they were surrounded by activists and the relatives of other people killed by police. Some held signs demanding that the district attorney file charges against those officers.

"I want justice for Jesse Romero," Dominguez said. "Everyone who has been killed the way he was deserves justice too."

Romero was one of 20 people shot by on-duty LAPD officers this year. Sixteen were killed.

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Follow me on Twitter: @katemather

Times staff writer Ruben Vives contributed to this story.

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