A Family Seeks Answers After An Unarmed Teen Was Shot By Police

| by Amanda Andrade-Rhoades
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Hector Morjen, 19, was unarmed when he was shot and killed by a Long Beach, California, police officer on the afternoon of April 23.

Before he was sent to the hospital, his mother, Lucia Morjen, got to speak to him one last time - the family attorney said she was at home when she heard the shots and went to investigate. Morjen reportedly said, "Mommy, Mommy, please come, please come.” He was declared dead a short while later.

"He was reaching for her - reaching out to her for help," lawyer Sonia Mercado told The Huffington Post. "She identified herself as his mother, expecting to ride with him to the hospital, but they refused to let her in.”

The police officer who shot Morjen reportedly believed the teen was pointing a gun at him during a trespassing and vandalism incident. "The officer observed [Morejon] turn towards him, while bending his knees, and extending his arm out as if pointing an object which the officer perceived was a gun," Long Beach police said in a press release. "At this point, an officer involved shooting occurred.”

The apartment was spray-painted with gang graffiti, police said, but it’s unclear if Morjen vandalized the apartment he was allegedly found in. The teen’s family attorneys said he didn’t have any gang ties.

A weapon was not recovered from the scene.

Morejon's family requests that the U.S. Department of Justice conduct a criminal investigation and demands that the officer be suspended. “Long Beach police should allow an independent inquest,” Mercado told the Los Angeles Times. “How can they investigate themselves?”

Sgt. Megan Zabel, a Police Department spokeswoman, said officers who are involved in shootings are moved to administrative duty pending investigation. The department hasn’t disclose certain details about the case, like the police officer’s name or badge number or how many shots were fired.

"Anytime we have an officer involved shooting, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office responds to the scene and they conduct their own independent investigation, and the reason they do that is to see if there is anything criminal on the officer's part," a spokeswoman told The Huffington Post. "So they are the ones who decide ultimately if any charges would be filed against the officer.”

Mercado said the internal review is a conflict of interest. "We often find in these cases that evidence was lost or destroyed," she said. "The public is entitled to know how this happened. Therefore, this investigation should go to an independent inquest by the Department of Justice or another police department.

"The family is very concerned and wants justice and accountability," she added.

Sources: The Huffington Post, The Los Angeles Times

Image via The Los Angeles Times, Sonia Mercado