The city of Long Beach is being sued by the family of a 39-year-old war veteran who was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder when he was fatally shot by police last year, which the family claims was motivated by the officers’ “contempt for Mexican Americans,” court papers show.
Jose Romero, who survived tours in Kuwait and Bosnia, was shot and killed the night of September 4, 2016 in the 1600 block of Obispo Avenue after he stated he wanted to commit “suicide by cop” and allegedly charged at police while armed with a knife, authorities previously stated.
His mother, Sofia Valenzuela, filed the Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit Friday on behalf of herself and her granddaughter, who is a minor. The complaint, which does not state the ethnicities of the officers, alleges wrongful death, negligence, assault, battery and civil rights violations regarding the death of her son.
The Long Beach City Attorney’s Office stated that it has not been served with the lawsuit.
"But if served, the office plans on vigorously defending its clients, including the city and any individually named police officers," said Assistant City Attorney Monte H. Machit.
According to the lawsuit, Romero was an honorably discharged military veteran and police knew he had post-traumatic stress disorder. Romero was “at times” holding a kitchen knife in one hand and later a cell phone after putting the knife on the ground, the lawsuit adds.
He picked up the knife again and was walking with it toward officers when up to 10 shots were fired at him as he crossed Obispo Avenue, the suit stated. He fell face-forward on the street and was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the lawsuit.
City News Service contributed to this report.
Editor's note: this story was updated at 5:00PM with a quote from the Long Beach City Attorney's Office.