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Vigil held for 14-year-old boy shot and killed by LAPD: 'Justice for Jesse'

The vigil Wednesday night for Jesse Romero, the 14-year-old boy shot and killed the day before by Los Angeles police, was not silent.

When it began, the crowd of more than 70 people stood in a large circle. In the center, a group of Aztec dancers yelled and blew a conch, performing to the rhythm of a drum that echoed loudly throughout Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights.

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Using a bullhorn, organizer Carolyn Vera, 25, addressed the crowd: "As a community here in Boyle Heights, we're here to denounce LAPD's killing of Jesse Romero, in case they can't hear us!"

In an empty lot not far away, a small group of officers stood outside their patrol cars, keeping watch.

At the vigil, men, women and children stood side-by-side, holding votive candles and signs that read, "El pueblo unido for Jesse (The people united for Jesse)."

Another stated, "No más madres en luto (No more mothers in mourning)."

The chanting focused on the slain boy, who died just a few weeks shy of his 15th birthday: "Justice for Jesse."

Boyle Heights resident Monica Garcia talks about her longtime friend Jessie Romero, who was killed in an officer-involved shooting. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

But there were quieter moments: a moment of silence and the reading of a poem about the 1968 student massacre in the Tlatelolco zone of Mexico City, Mexico. Both sought to honor the dead students, Romero and anyone else killed by authorities in the U.S. and other countries.

Among those attending the vigil was 28-year-old Etujan Lopez of East Los Angeles, who said he had mixed feelings about the shooting.

"I hear different stories about what happened," he said. "I think it's a failure on everyone's part."

Lopez said there should be more community programs that help steer children away from gang activities and encourage them to get an education and professional careers.

According to the LAPD, Romero was suspected of writing gang-style graffiti in the area before leading officers on a foot chase and firing a gun at them late Tuesday afternoon.

The chase ended when Romero was fatally shot by officers at Breed Street and Cesar E. Chavez Avenue. A handgun was recovered at the scene, police said.

Lopez said the fatal shooting of Romero was an unfortunate and sad occurrence in a community he feels is moving away from its bad days.

I hear different stories about what happened. I think it's a failure on everyone's part.


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Forty minutes after it had started at 7 p.m., the vigil turned into a rally. The crowd swelled to more than 100 people who marched down First Street to the LAPD's Hollenbeck Community Police Station.

Some demonstrators walked and carried a large banner that read, "Fire Charlie Beck," and they shouted, "Justicia Para Jesse (Justice for Jesse)." Their chants were amplified as they made their way through the underpass of the Golden State Freeway.

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At the police station, the crowd quietly listened to speakers. The rally expressed solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Earlier in the evening, Vera had called on Latinos and blacks to stand together against police killings.

The marchers then made their way east on First Street, turning north on Breed Street to the place where Romero was shot.

Some residents stepped out of their single-story homes and apartments when they heard the loud chants.

Consuelo Ramos, 44, watched the crowd pass. She said she had mixed feelings about the deadly shooting.

"They say the boy was armed and that he fired first at police," Ramos said. If he was unarmed, she said she would view the incident differently.

Near the scene of the deadly confrontation, some in the crowd distributed small posters with a picture of Romero in a white shirt. One person held a large Mexican flag.

Standing quietly, 17-year-old Julian Montenegro said he came out with his parents to support the Boyle Heights community that he lives in. He said he is bothered by the shooting.

"It's really awful," he said. "It instills fear in people of color."

Not far, Lopez stood silently. His eyes were watery.

"I'm in tears right now," he said, his hands on his waist. "With tragedy things might change."

He paused, looking at the crowd.

"Hopefully they'll change."

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