The family of an unarmed 19-year-old fatally shot in Cambodia Town last Thursday by a Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) officer say they want an independent investigation into the incident conducted by the US Department of Justice while the District Attorney and Coroner’s Office begin an early review.
In a statement released Monday, the family of Hector Morejon said they're requesting that the LBPD "immediately release the name and badge number of the officer who is responsible for killing Hector who was unarmed.”
The family later said it “demands that the City of Long Beach and its police department suspend the shooting officer” and that the City “ask the U.S. Department of Justice to perform the criminal investigation to show that Long Beach City and Police believe that a fully transparent independent criminal investigation should be conducted to determine how and why an unarmed teenage kid was killed.”
Officers had arrived at a residential multi-unit complex in Cambodia Town in response to reports of several subjects trespassing inside of and vandalizing a vacant residence. When looking through an open window, “The officer […] observed the suspect turn towards him […] while bending his knees, and extending his arm out as if pointing an object which the officer perceived was a gun."
The police later reported that no weapon was found at the scene. Three other individuals were arrested on trespassing charges, and one individual was charged with trespassing and a gang injunction.
According to Lt. Lloyd Cox of the LBPD, this was the first fatal shooting of three officer-involved shootings in Long Beach this year. Lt. Cox said no officer-involved shootings had occurred at this point in time in 2014.
Lt. Cox said an early review process began on the date of the incident and will last for several months. In the meantime, officials are evaluating the subjects in custody, “conferring with gang experts in that territory” and “investigating whether or not there are additional crimes they are involved in.”
In their statement, the Morejon family rejected the possibility that the subject had any gang ties.
“Hector was a sweet son and favored little brother,” they said. The Morejons stated that Lucia Morejon [above left, pictured with Hector], Hector Morejon’s mother, was home when the shots were fired and expected to ride in the ambulance with her son when she walked to the scene of the shooting.
When he saw her, they stated, “he said ‘Mommy, mommy, please come, please come!’” According to the statement, Morejon was “pushed back by a man in a blue uniform,” and was told no one knew what had happened.
The District Attorney’s office and the Coroner’s office will conduct separate reviews. Lt. Cox said it usually takes four to six months for the Coroner’s office to complete the autopsy and get back to police.
Addressing the recent scrutiny of officer-involved shootings nationwide, Lt. Cox said “officers are just as much at risk” as those accused of criminal activity. He said that cooperating with an officer “rather than challenging an officer” improves the safety of all involved.
The LBPD’s early review is a relatively new approach to investigating officer-related incidents in Long Beach, and a practice that is not common to all cities, according to Lt. Cox.
“Working right away on a review rather than six months later is new,” Lt. Cox said. “I hope it catches on. It only improves what we do.”
The Morejons continue to hope for an investigation conducted by the Deptartment of Justice and “for justice and accountability from the Long Beach Police.”