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Families and community members demand justice and answers for Jorge Gomez

· FU4JNV

Cover photo: The family of Jorge Gomez, other families impacted by police homicide and community members have a moment of silence to commemorate Gomez. July 22, 2020, Las Vegas, NV. Photo by Orlando Edwards, Jr.

Reporting: Eyasu Shumie

Photos: Orlando Edwards, Jr., Eduardo Rossal-Cabrera, and Nissa Tzun

Jorge Gomez's mother began her speech by removing the mask from her face and uttering three words echoed by millions across the nation: "I can't breathe." What followed was a tearful and moving eulogy of her son and a call for justice and answers to be brought forward.

Jeanne Llera, mother of Jorge Gomez, addresses the press to dispel the mythology spread by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department that her son was, "radicalized." Jorge grew up in a military and law enforcement family who were proud to exercise their Second Amendment right. July 22, 2020, Las Vegas, NV. Photo by Eduardo Rossal-Cabrera

Jorge Gomez was born and raised in Florida, though he lived in Las Vegas from 2006 to 2012, and recently moved back to Las Vegas with his father due to the Covid-19 outbreak. He loved animals and was studying to be a veterinarian. He was someone who loved to help others, and above all he was a strong believer in right and wrong. Jorge Gomez was killed on June 1st by Las Vegas Metro Police Department officers during a Black Lives Matter protest at the Lloyd D. George Federal Courthouse. Despite dozens of officers at the scene, cameras installed at the courthouse, and countless eyewitnesses, LVMPD has denied all requests to release any additional evidence they may have regarding the case. They also claim that no officers present at the scene were wearing or even carrying a body camera. Only one piece of surveillance footage has been released to the public and it shows Jorge running away from officers until he goes off screen before any lethal rounds are fired. The only other evidence the family and their counsel have been able to find is through social media. The family and their legal counsel (Rudolfo Gonzalez and Flores Law Firm) have only spoken with the Metro Police Department once, and they have no information on the case beyond what has been reported to the public.

Jorge Gomez' family is calling for the community to come forward with any information regarding Jorge days leading up to the incident and the night of the incident. He was shot in front of tens of people in a heavily surveilled area. PSA filmed by Forced Trajectory Project on June 18, 2020.

Jorge was killed by LVMPD while he was exercising his second amendment right to open carry, and many officers and protestors saw him throughout the night. The night Jorge was killed, his presence was felt demonstrating along with others and he was even seen consoling the mother of Thomas McEniry, a man killed by LVMPD in 2015. For the Gomez family, with Jorge’s sister, Jazmin Gomez, attending West Point, his father, Jorge Gomez, working as a law enforcement professional for a casino, and his stepmother, Rene Amador, working in the Department of Homeland Security, the second amendment was an important part of their lives and they saw no issues with him exercising that right the night he was killed.

Jeanne Llera, mother of Jorge Gomez, is comforted by her partner Rene Amador, and Jorge's father, Jorge Gomez, and Jorge's sister, Jazmin Gomez, at the press conference for Jorge Gomez outside of the Lloyd D. George Federal District Courthouse where he was gunned down by four LVMPD officers. July 22, 2020, Las Vegas, NV. Photo by Nissa Tzun

Young organizers joined the family of Jorge Gomez and other families impacted by police violence during the press conference for a powerful visual display, utilizing portraits of Jorge Gomez covering their faces to accentuate the phrase, "His name is everyone's," in front of the Lloyd D. George Federal District Courthouse where Jorge was killed. July 22, 2020, Las Vegas, NV. Photo by Orlando Edwards, Jr.

There remains questions surrounding whether LVMPD has any training or protocols outlining how to handle civilians open carrying, and an attorney for the family, Edgar Flores, asserted this negligence that eventually led to the death of Jorge is just one of nine points from which the lawsuit against LVMPD is being brought forward.

The 9 points of the family’s lawsuit are listed here:

  • right to peacefully protest

  • excessive use of force

  • denial of medical care

  • substantive due process violation

  • unconstitutional customs, practices or policies

  • failure to train officers

  • ratification of officers’ conduct

  • battery resulting in wrongful death

  • negligence

Edgar Flores, the family's attorney, addresses the media at the press conference for Jorge Gomez. July 22, 2020, Las Vegas, NV. Photo by Eduardo Rossal-Cabrera

For the Gomez family, answers to the questions surrounding his death are just as important as receiving justice. They made a call for any and all witnesses or videographers to bring forward their evidence through the website they have made in Jorge’s honor, justiceforjorgegomez.com. They also made it clear that their lawsuit was only made necessary by LVMPD’s refusal to cooperate with the family and their legal counsel to release all the evidence they have surrounding his shooting. In the last 30 years, there has never been an indictment for an on-duty police officer who has killed a civilian, and there has been little transparency surrounding these killings, neither for the public or for the families left behind.

After the press conference, the community joined the family of Jorge Gomez and Families United 4 Justice Las Vegas, a local group of individuals and families impacted by police violence on a vigil walk around the Lloyd D. George Federal District Courthouse where Jorge was gunned down. July 22, 2020, Las Vegas, NV. Photo by Eduardo Rossal-Cabrera

Organizer Desiree Smith implores the community to commit to supporting families impacted by police homicide. July 22, 2020, Las Vegas, NV. Photo by Eduardo Rossal-Cabrera

During the press conference, the family was joined by members of the community and the organization Families United 4 Justice - Las Vegas, a group of families who have been directly impacted by police violence calling for systemic reform. Two of these family members spoke at the event along with Jorge’s mother: L. Jay and Ariah Justin. L. Jay is the sister of Thomas McEniry, and Ariah Justin is the daughter of Joseph Justin, killed in 2007 by Captain Nichole Splinter, the officer now in charge of LVMPD's Office of Internal Oversight and Constitutional Policing. The group has recently come out with a list of 40 demands and a few were spoken of directly by the group, including the immediate resignation of Nichole Splinter, as well as the resignation of District Attorney Steven Wolfson and an end to qualified immunity in the state of Nevada.

Families United 4 Justice Las Vegas, a local group of families and individuals impacted by police violence compiled a list of 40 demands for police transparency and accountability in Las Vegas, Nevada and beyond. Graphic by @itswangdawg

These demands were not just endorsed but authored by the families directly affected by police violence in the Las Vegas metro area and are sweeping in their changes. They ensure that families will be given back things they need to grieve such as the victim’s clothing or autopsy report, they increase accountability and transparency for both administrators and officers, they change training protocols for officers to emphasize deescalation over violence at every available opportunity, and much more. The demands are pointed and actionable, yet it remains to be seen how policymakers will respond in the upcoming special legislative session.

Ariah Justin, daughter of LVMPD police homicide victim Joseph Justin, and L. Jay, sister of police homicide victim Thomas McEniry, share some of the demands Families United 4 Justice Las Vegas authored over several weeks of collective brainstorming at the rally portion of the press conference for Jorge Gomez. Demands include the resignation of Captain Nichole Splinter, who was involved in the killing of Joseph Justin, and the immediate resignations of Sheriff Joseph Lombardo and Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson who has allowed tens of police killings to occur without any prosecution. July 22, 2020, Las Vegas, NV. Photo by Orlando Edwards, Jr.

The families were joined by members of the community in a moment of silence and a march around the Lloyd D. George Federal Courthouse where people held signs and chanted in honor of Jorge Gomez. Demonstrators called on the Las Vegas Metro Police Department to be transparent, shouting “Release the videos,” as they marched. Jorge Gomez’s mother and community members were united in sharing their collective grief and their commitment to ensuring that no more families will have to endure the lasting trauma that police violence inflicts.

Jeanne Llera, mother of Jorge Gomez, and Alma Chavez, mother of Rafael Olivas, who was gunned down by LVMPD on July 14, 2011, embrace each other during the rally portion of the event. July 22, 2020, Las Vegas, NV. Photo by Eduardo Rossal-Cabrera

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