MONTEBELLO (CBSLA.com) — A teenage boy left debilitated after an LAPD officer shot him two years ago spoke out Monday about the $24 million a jury awarded him last week.
“Justice. Justice has been done,” said 15-year-old Rohayent “Ryan” Gomez-Eriza, who is paralyzed from the chest down.
The shooting happened Dec. 16, 2010, around 7:30 p.m. in the Glassell Park area of Los Angeles.
According to the LAPD, Officer Victor Abarca and his partner were on routine patrol when they saw Gomez-Eriza, then 13 years old, and two of his friends in the middle of a dark street.
When they stopped to investigate, authorities claim Gomez-Eriza fled behind a parked van.
Abarca said he shot the teenage boy after the victim refused to cooperate and subsequently pulled a pistol out of his pocket.
An investigation determined, however, that Gomez-Eriza had a replica 9mm handgun.
Renaldo Casillas, Gomez-Eriza’s attorney, said the teen was playing “cops and robbers” with his friends with toy guns.
Casillas said an eyewitness testified that the officer shot the teen seconds after the boy came out from behind the van.
“It was just a startled response. There just wasn’t time for him to make any observation,” said Casillas.
Gomez-Eriza said he never saw or heard the officer before he was shot.
“He was in front of me, but I couldn’t see him. I never knew he was there,” he said.
The teenager said his goal is to walk again.
“Every time I go to school, I see my friends running, walking, playing soccer. I can’t do it anymore,” Gomez-Eriza said. “(I want to) be someone in life. I want to be a doctor. Surgeon.”
Chief Charlie Beck released a statement that said he encourages the City Attorney to appeal the jury’s decision because he believes the judgment is unwarranted.
“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,” Beck said.
The police chief continued, “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.”