LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The family of a 14-year-old boy shot dead by police in Boyle Heights nearly two years ago has just released body cam video the incident, which they say contradicts the officers’ version of events.
Jesse Romero was killed by Los Angeles Police Officer Eden Medina on the evening of August 9, 2016. Medina was pursuing Romero on foot for having a gun, after someone reported the teen and two others were tagging the wall of a nearby building.
At a press conference Tuesday, the Romero family’s attorney Humberto Guizar showed body cam footage from an officer running behind Medina as he chases Romero down E. Cesar Chavez Boulevard.
As the officers approach a corner, a gunshot police said came from Romero’s gun is heard. Medina then turns the corner onto Breed Street and shoots Romero, killing him.
On Tuesday, the LAPD and the police commission said the fatal shooting was justified and within department policy because Medina felt threatened. A witness told police they saw Romero point a gun at them.
No charges were ever filed against Medina.
However, Guizar pointed out Tuesday the gun was found on the opposite side of the fence in front of where Romero was killed. He posited the gun went off after Romero threw the gun over the fence, not as a result of the teen pulling the trigger.
“What happened is he threw it over the fence. When it landed on the ground, that’s when it fired, OK? Because it hit something, and it caused it to fire,” said Guizar.
Another witness told the LA Times “Romero pulled the revolver from his waistband, threw it against a fence and ran.”
Guizar said the fact that Medina turned the corner and walked towards Romero shows the officer knew the teen didn’t have a gun but shot him anyway.
“He saw the kid did not have a gun and was firing at him, otherwise, why would he walk in the line of fire?” asked Guizar.
The gun recovered ended up being an antique revolver, which two experts, including a retired agent with the Drug Enforcement Agency, said most likely discharged when it hit the ground, the LA Times reported at the time.
Romero’s parents, who did not wish to speak to reporters Tuesday, initially denied their son had a gun but have since admitted he was in possession of the firearm.
Romero’s death prompted the community of Boyle Heights to protest what they called the latest in a pattern of police brutality by the LAPD, holding a vigil for Romero at the site of the shooting.
After the incident, the LA Times reported Medina fatally shot a man in the same enclave of Boyle Heights just 12 days prior, calling into question the length time between the man’s death and Medina’s return to the field.
Romero’s family filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city in June of 2017.
Read the LAPD’s full statement on the release of the body cam footage below:
“The LAPD conducted a thorough investigation of the officer involved shooting and examined all of the evidence in the case to determine whether the officers met the high standards expected by the community in the use of deadly force.
The independent Inspector General and the civilian Board of Police Commissioners also thoroughly reviewed the full investigation by examining all of the video evidence, the statements of officers and witnesses, the forensic reports, and several other factors in determining that the use of force was appropriate. In addition, the Los Angeles District Attorney reviewed the entirety of the case and determined that Officer Medina used reasonable force in self-defense and the defense of others.
The Los Angeles Police Department understands that any time that an officer uses deadly force that ends in a fatality it is a painful tragedy for the family and friends of the suspect, the community and the officers involved. This is why the LAPD, its oversight bodies, and the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office scrutinizes these incidents as closely as possible to ensure that the use of deadly force was appropriate to defend the life of the officer or members of the public.”