On Wednesday night, about 70 people gathered for a vigil for 14-year-old Jesse Romero, a Boyle Heights resident shot and killed by the Los Angeles police on Tuesday. “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!” 25-year-old Carolyn Vera shouted into a bullhorn, according to the Los Angeles Times. Just before the vigil, LAPD officials held a press conference to give its official account on the incident.
At about 5:35 p.m. on Tuesday, the LAPD received a call about possible vandalism near Chicago Street and Cesar Chavez Avenue. When police arrived, they found two teenagers. Police chased Jesse, who took off running. LAPD Deputy Chief Robert Arcos said officers heard a gunshot. And when they got to the corner of Breed Street and Cesar Chavez, officers shot and killed Jesse. An eyewitness identified only as Norma corroborates parts of the stories, but makes the clear distinction that the boy didn’t fire his gun at police.
According to the LA Times, Norma saw the Hollenbeck Middle School student pull a gun from his waistband. He tried to dump the gun; however, it fired off as it hit the ground. When he turned around, police shot him. The police recovered the gun, which investigators will test for fingerprints.
The police’s story seemingly matches up with the eyewitness account, but body camera footage has yet to be reviewed. And from the information that has been released, there are problematic instances. For example, the police initially thought Jesse was actually in his 20s.
As the 12th person shot and killed by on-duty LAPD officers this year, the public is also going to want answers. Starting with, why did the police have to shoot to kill? This is something Jesse’s mom also questioned. “It was not right for them to do what they did or kill him,” his mom, Teresa Dominguez, said. “That’s why they are trained as police officers. Not to kill him.”
The 36-year-old described him as a “very good student” and a “very good person.” She didn’t know how he had a gun in his possession. Jesse – born in Puebla, Mexico – moved to the United States as a 1-year-old and belonged to the Soledad Enrichment Action’s gang program. He would have turned 15 on August 24.
So on Wednesday, as police watched from a distance, people gathered at the Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights to lend support for Jesse and his mother. Aztec dancers performed, and people shouted, “Justicia Para Jesse.” Forty minutes after the vigil began, more people arrived to join the rally. They marched down First Street to LAPD’s Hollenbeck Community Police Station. Some held signs that read, “Fire Charlie Beck.” There, the audience listened to speakers, who also backed the Black Lives Matter Movement.
And in the midst of this pain and anger, people also feel confused. Like 28-year-old Etujan Lopez, who attended the vigil, said he’s heard a lot of conflicting stories. But that to him, it seems like “a failure on everyone’s part.”