Jesse Romero, 14, was shot and killed by a Los Angeles police officer on Tuesday. According to reports, gang detail officers were dispatched to Boyle Heights amid reports of drug abuse and vandalism. Authorities have confirmed the teen was shot and killed while attempting to flee the scene.
During a press conference, LAPD Deputy Chief Robert Arcos said two suspects, who were described as males between the ages of 14 and 16, were “involved in possible ‘gang writings’ and narcotics activity.”
When authorities arrived on scene, Jesse Romero attempted to flee on foot to avoid capture. While he was running, the teen reportedly fired a handgun toward the gang detail officers.
In response, one of the officers shot and killed the 14-year-old boy.
LAPD Deputy Chief Robert Arcos confirmed a loaded handgun was recovered from the scene. The weapon is currently being processed for DNA and fingerprints. Authorities will also attempt to determine whether the gun was fired by Jesse Romero while he attempted to flee.
As reported by Los Angeles Times, Arcos also confirmed the gang detail officers were wearing body cameras, which were running when the shooting incident occurred. The deputy chief said the footage is currently being reviewed by a team of investigators.
During the press conference, Arcos said the tragedy underlines the grim reality of ongoing gang violence within the community.
“While the loss of life is particularly tragic, it is particularly so when the loss involves a youth… The tragedy of this event cannot be understated. In a community where violent crime continues to rise, particularly gang crime, this event underscores the need for youth programs and outreach, which could provide opportunities and alternatives for the youth of our community.”
Although the officers were called to the scene amid suspected gang activity, the Los Angeles Police Department has not confirmed whether Jesse Romero was a member of any gang. However, Jesse’s friend, Lourdes Miranda, admitted the teen was involved in gang activity during an interview with KPCC.
“Yeah he was in the gangs and everything but he was a good kid… He was smart, he was friendly. He did good in school. Very respectful, never disrespected anyone. Always quiet.”
Family friend Diane Covarrubias said Jesse Romero was a participant in Soledad Enrichment Action’s gang program, which helps high-risk teens stay out of trouble. According to Covarrubias, the teen “was making a lot of progress” in the program.
Although one witness reported seeing the teen fire shots toward the gang detail officers, another witness, who is identified only as “Norma,” said the teen did not fire the gun.
— Vanessita (@MariposaWarrior) August 10, 2016
According to Norma, Jesse Romero did pull a gun out of his waistband while fleeing the scene. However, he tossed the weapon to the ground as he ran. Although she admits she heard a gunshot, Norma believes the weapon fired when it hit the ground. She contends the suspect never pointed the gun at anyone.
In the last eight months, a total of 26 suspects were shot and killed by authorities in Los Angeles County. In 2015, the number of officer-involved shootings reached 45.
— ✨CASSANDRA (@gringatears) August 11, 2016
Although a majority of suspects killed by police officers are over the age of 20, an alarming number are 19 and younger. Between 2010 and 2014, a total of 19 suspects under the age of 20 were killed by authorities in Los Angeles County.
As the witness reports were conflicting, LAPD Deputy Chief Robert Arcos said the body cam footage and processing of the weapon found at the scene will be crucial in determining whether Jesse Romero’s death was justified.
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