LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Winget Spadafora and Schwartzberg LLP filed a lawsuit against the Long Beach Police Department and the City of Long Beach on behalf of a ten-year-old minor, whose father, a decorated U.S. Army veteran, was killed by Long Beach Police after he called officers for help during an episode of mental illness.
Jose Romero, 39 years old, was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after serving in combat overseas in Bosnia. Mr. Romero had no history of violence.
On September 4, 2016, at approximately 9:15PM, the Long Beach Police Department dispatched officers and a mental evaluation team to Mr. Romero’s home on the 1600 block of Obispo Avenue after receiving a 911 call from Mr. Romero. According to the lawsuit, officers knew that Mr. Romero suffered from mental illness because he had called the police on prior occasions for help with his PTSD. The mental evaluation team and officers were on scene for over one hour before fatally shooting Mr. Romero.
At approximately 10:15PM, Mr. Romero began crossing Obispo Avenue towards officers positioned across the street. The officers opened fire on him. He was pronounced dead on the scene. Witnesses state that police fired multiple times at the man after he approached officers with what appears to be a kitchen knife in his hand.
“The police squandered numerous opportunities to de-escalate the situation without resorting to deadly force,” said Brandon S. Reif, Managing Partner of the Los Angeles office of Winget Spadafora & Schwartzberg LLP. “American veterans suffering from mental illness deserve equal protection under the law and should not be gunned down in their own front yards after calling the police for help. This senseless death should have been avoided,” says Mr. Reif.
The complaint alleges that police officers and mental health evaluation team members failed to use non-lethal force during the standoff, even though non-lethal tools were available. “Jose’s case exposes the tragedies that result from the use of unjustified lethal force. What’s worse is that minorities and veterans, especially those who suffer from mental illness, seem to be disproportionately affected by these police shootings,” said Mr. Reif.
Mr. Romero’s young daughter seeks damages from the police for the loss of love, aide, comfort and future support from her father. Mr. Romero’s mother Sofia Valenzuela, who cared deeply for her son and helped him through prior episodes of mental illness, is completely disheartened and saddened by the decision of the Long Beach Police Department to brutally gun down Mr. Romero rather than provide him with the help he clearly needed.
Plaintiffs are represented by the Los Angeles Office of Winget Spadafora & Schwartzberg LLP: Managing Partner Brandon S. Reif, Partner Gabriel Reynoso and Associate Valerie Gallo.
Winget Spadafora & Schwartzberg LLP is a nationwide law firm with offices in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas with an expertise in trial law and litigation. (www.wssllp.com)