Newly elected DA vows to reopen 2015 case of LBPD officer who fatally shot man in back

It was around 2 p.m. on April 23, 2015 when Long Beach Police Officer Jeffrey Meyer responded to a trespassing call at an empty apartment in a neighborhood known for gang violence near Cambodia Town.

Meyer, a 25-year veteran with the department, peered through a kitchen window, lighting up the room with a flashlight attached to his gun, according to a report from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office. He saw a profile of man about 10 feet from the window and fired one shot, hitting 19-year-old Hector Morejon in the back.

Meyer later said he pulled the trigger after Morejon crouched down and “took a firing stance.” Police never found any weapon near Morejon.

More than a year later, a review from the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office called the case “deeply troubling” and said Morejon died “due in large part to Officer Meyer’s decision to surreptitiously approach the kitchen window and point his gun inside without identifying himself as a police officer.”

Prosecutors, however, declined to file charges against Meyer, citing insufficient evidence that his actions were criminal.

But a new prosecutor has now vowed to relook at the case.

George Gascón, the newly elected Los Angeles County District Attorney who defeated incumbent Jackie Lacy this month on a platform of criminal justice reform, has named the Long Beach shooting as one of four fatal officer-involved shooting he plans to reopen as the county’s top prosecutor.

The three other cases include: a 2015 incident in which a Los Angeles police officer shot an unarmed homeless man in the back; a 2013 case where a Gardena officer shot an unarmed bike theft victim; and man who was shot by Torrance police” when he moved his hands one second after being given instructions to ‘Get out of the car!'”

In the Morejon incident, Gascón in a letter said Lacey failed to address the physical evidence that Morejon was shot in the back.

“Lacey focused on the lack of credibility of the witnesses inside the residence in declining to prosecute this case,” he said.  “Officer Meyer stated that he shot Morejon because he saw him ‘take a ‘firing stance.’ Such a stance would have required Morejon to face Officer Meyer, and that is not consistent with the autopsy results which reflect Morejon having been shot in the back.” 

Hector Morejon (left) was shot in the back through a window by a Long Beach police officer in 2015. File photo.

Gascón said he selected the four cases based on findings and recommendations from a team including Katherine Mader, a retired judge and former inspector general for the Los Angeles Police Department, and Je Yon Jung, a former civil rights attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice.

The reopenings will require a review of all available evidence and a re-evaluation of the District Attorney’s decision to close the cases.

The Long Beach Police Department in a statement said they haven’t yet been contacted regarding the matter.

“However, we are always open to an impartial and objective review, by the District Attorney’s Office, of the facts and evidence in cases involving our officers,” the department said.

In its own internal review, the department found Meyer’s actions were within policy, but they barred him from returning to patrol until he went through retraining. The department also ordered retraining on “interview/interrogation techniques” for two detectives assigned to investigate the case.

The city of Long Beach later agreed to pay Morejon’s family $1.5 million to settle a wrongful death lawsuit. Morejon’s family members could not be reached for comment this week.

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Kelly Puente is a general assignment and special projects reporter at the Long Beach Post. Her prolific reporting has taken her all over Southern California—even to the small Catalina Island town of Two Harbors. She is a Tiki mug collector and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and administration at Cal State Long Beach. Reach her at [email protected].