File photo of the Feb. 6, 2016 shooting of Jose Mendez by LAPD officers in Boyle Heights. Image: OnSceneTV
File photo of the Feb. 6, 2016 shooting of Jose Mendez by LAPD officers in Boyle Heights. Image: OnSceneTV

The family of a 16-year-old boy who was shot and killed by Los Angeles Police Department officers in February 2016 announced the filing of a federal lawsuit against the city Wednesday, one day after the Police Commission ruled the shooting was justified.

Jose Mendez was fatally shot Feb. 6 in the 3300 block of East Sixth Street in Boyle Heights, with police saying he was driving a stolen vehicle and pointed a shotgun at them.

The shooting sparked protests in Boyle Heights. The family’s attorney, Arnoldo Casillas, told reporters officers inappropriately moved Mendez’s body after the shooting.

“What every police officer knows is that you don’t tamper with evidence,” Casillas said.

Police Chief Charlie Beck’s report on the shooting — which he found to be justified — did state that officers moved Mendez’s body several minutes after the shooting and removed items from his pocket in an attempt to locate his identification.

Beck’s report admonished the officer who searched Mendez’s pockets, citing the importance of “leaving evidence undisturbed” until investigators arrive.

Police said previously that Officers Josue Merida and Jeremy Wagner both shot Mendez.

One officer reported that as he approached Mendez’s vehicle he saw him point a shotgun or rifle at him and opened fire 11 times, while the other officer fired twice. A loaded, sawed-off shotgun was found in the vehicle, according to the LAPD.

In announcing the lawsuit against the department, Casillas called on the District Attorney’s Office to file charges against the two officers, but he called such a move improbable.

“There are 19 gunshots wounds to his body. The side of his face was nearly blown off. Anybody who approached Jose Mendez should have known that he was dead,” Casillas said, disputing what he called a police claim that officers moved his body to render medical assistance.

The Police Commission on Tuesday also ruled on a second officer-involved shooting that occurred on Jan. 17, 2016, and found it justified.

Efrain Herrera Jr., 24, was shot and killed in North Hills by Officers Raul Gonzalez and Adrian Cruz after they said he charged them with a knife and did not respond to commands.

–City News Service

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