Los Angeles: December 14, 2012 Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck responds to jury’s award of $24 million in the Gomez Eriza civil lawsuit.
“This is a tragedy for all involved, but in particular for the young man injured in this police shooting and for the officer who believed that he was protecting himself and his partner from a real threat,” said LAPD Chief Charlie Beck. “The replica gun Gomez Eriza had was indistinguishable from a real handgun on a dark night. When our officers are confronted with a realistic replica weapon in the field, they have to react in a split second to the perceived threat. If our officers delay or don’t respond to armed suspects, it could cost them their lives.”
"Since this occurred I have sought legislation that would require making these replica weapons more distinguishable from real firearms. I am encouraging the City Attorney to appeal because I believe the judgment is unwarranted.”
This case began on December 16, 2010, at about 7:30 p.m. in the Glassell Park Area of Los Angeles. Two Los Angeles Police Department Northeast Area officers were on routine patrol in the 3000 block of North Verdugo Road when they saw three pedestrians in the middle of the dark street and stopped to investigate. All three of the pedestrians ran from the street.
Two went to the east side of the street; one went to the west side of the street and stood behind a parked van. The officer’s got out of their patrol car and one officer began giving commands to the male (later identified as Rohayent Gomez Eriza) who appeared to be hiding behind the van. Because of Gomez Eriza’s size, (5 feet 7 inches tall and 200 pounds) the officer believed he was dealing with a young adult male.
The officer gave commands for the subject to surrender as he illuminated him with a flashlight. The subject refused to comply with the officer’s commands and instead pulled a replica 9 millimeter Berretta Model 92F handgun out of his sweatshirt pocket. The officer, who was unable to see the orange tip of the pistol which distinguishes it as a replica handgun, fired one shot from his duty weapon striking the subject.
Los Angeles Fire Department personnel responded and transported the wounded subject to a local hospital where he underwent surgery.
The other two subjects, both juveniles who are 13 and 14 years old, were detained without incident after dropping their very real-looking replica handguns to the ground. A total of three replica handguns were recovered at the scene. The investigation determined that the subjects had been playing in the dark street, shooting pellets at each other with the replica handguns.
The shooting was reviewed by the Chief of Police, the Inspector General, and the Los Angeles Police Commission. It was classified as “In Policy.”
Since this incident, the Los Angeles Police Department has worked to get State laws changed. We were successful with the passage of Senate Bill 1315. Senate Bill 1315 will allow cities in Los Angeles County to enact Municipal Laws to ban the manufacturing, sale, and possession of these replica weapons. The LAPD is working with the Board of Police Commissioners and the Office of the City Attorney to craft an ordinance that will prohibit the manufacturing, sale and possession of these weapons in the City of Los Angeles.
In addition to the Chief of Police, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Justice System Integrity Division, the Office of the Inspector General and the Board of Police Commissioners maintain access to, and oversight responsibilities for, all officer-involved shooting investigations.
These photos depict an actual Beretta Model 92 FS on the left, and the actual replica gun (right) carried by Eriza-Gomez on the night of the shooting.