On Tuesday, around 5:50 p.m., a cop shot and killed a 14-year-old boy in Boyle Heights – a predominantly Latino neighborhood just east of downtown Los Angeles.
Is this why there was an earthquake in #Cali ? The earth screaming "he was a child" . How many more times are Black and Brown children especially young boys "mistaken" for a "suspect". This country, this police will shoot away any traces of childhood , of innocence , of youth. This country will calm them "monsters". I will call them by their names : from Aiya Jones (7), to now Jesse James Romero (14) whose birthday was coming up August 24th. I'm so sorry that instead of your name getting written on a birthday cake , it will be engraved on a tombstone. #stoppolicebrutality #youth #children #justice #jessejamesromero #JesseRomero
The reason for his death? He was tagging.
According to reports, members of the LAPD gang enforcement division responded to a vandalism call. The two officers approached Jesse James Romero, the dead boy in question, and another unnamed teen suspect. Romero took off running, and the cops went after him. The police say that an unnamed witness saw Romero fire at the cops, so they fired back and killed him. A gun was found near where Romero was killed. A witness who spoke to the Los Angeles Times said that she saw Romero run down the street and throw a gun into the bushes. According to her statement, the gun went off after it hit a fence and landed on the ground.
“He didn’t shoot,” the woman told the LA Times.
Both officers, still unnamed, were wearing body cameras. The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California says the two cops will get a chance to review the footage before they have to provide a statement of what happened. I don’t know when that footage will be made available to the public.
Speaking to the media, Deputy Chief Robert Arcos, suggested that what happened to Jesse James Romero was because of where he lived.
“In a community where violent crime continues to rise, particularly gang crime, this event underscores the need for youth programs and outreach, which provide opportunities and alternatives for the young of our communities,” he said.
I live in Boyle Heights. There is less violent crime there than in Venice, which is richer and whiter. It’s not a gangland. It’s a working class Latino neighborhood that’s fighting off gentrification like crazy (and winning, at least for now). Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti proudly claims his roots are in Boyle Heights.
I do not feel unsafe.
Instead, I feel anger and distrust. I’m furious that a 14-year-old boy was killed six blocks from my apartment for doing something dumb, no different than what other kids his age do on a daily basis. I’m suspicious of the police because of their lack of transparency. It doesn’t help that the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office recently had to apologize for killing an innocent bystander – a black man – after spending two weeks trying to peg him as a second suspect in a carjacking. I’m much more comfortable giving benefit of the doubt to a Mexican boy who likely had a gun on him, than I am to law enforcement because I’m more afraid of being shot and killed by a cop than a middle school kid.
I’m disillusioned that Jesse James Romero, if he’s remembered at all by the public, will be painted as a violent thug who was a danger to society. That’s not how his friends and family will remember him.
At tonight's vigil for #JesseJamesRomero A 14 year old shot and killed in Boyle Heights by LAPD. I've had students tell me stories about police pointing guns to their heads for hanging out late, so don't fucken tell me "He should've this", "He should've that". These are children being fucken killed! Thank you BLM for showing solidarity with us tonight #LaGenteUnida
“He was a very good student,” Teresa Dominguez, Romero’s 36-year-old single mother told the LA Times. “He was a very good person.”
“He was caring, he was loving. Whenever I was sad, he would put aside his troubles and drama and he would come help me. He would try to, he would do his best to make me smile,” Monica Garcia (pictured above), a teen girl who was friends with Romero, said to Los Angeles Times video reporter Luis Sinco. “Personally, I don’t want him to be remembered as a gang member. That’s just not right. He was someone’s kid, someone’s boyfriend, someone’s cousin, someone’s friend.” Jesus.
Even those who didn’t know the boy are devastated.
Letter left behind by teacher working in the area of fatal police shooting of 14-year-old boy. pic.twitter.com/Y6bazIEKkw
— Veronica Rocha (@VeronicaRochaLA) August 10, 2016
Last night, at around 10 p.m., I took my dog out for a walk to clear my head. As I headed to a nearby park, a white, dinky car suddenly stopped and parked in the middle of the street with the engine still running. A young, Latino-looking kid rushed out of the vehicle, sprinted to a white wall on the opposite side of the street where I was standing, tagged it, and then ran back into the car, which quickly took off. The whole incident lasted no more than 20 seconds. I lingered in place for about a minute trying to process what I’d just witnessed. Confusion immediately morphed into impotent rage.
“You stupid motherf****r,” I uttered under my breath, concluding that this tagger’s stupid actions could one day likely lead him to meet a fate similar to Jesse James Romero’s. I went straight to bed shortly thereafter because it was better to be asleep than to be equal parts fuming and despondent.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the family of Jesse James Romero pay for his funeral costs. You can contribute here.