Tempe, AZ – Protesters have rallied to denounce the fatal officer-involved shooting of a 14-year-old burglary suspect who was armed with a replica handgun.
“We want to bring an end to the police brutality in Maricopa County and lock up killer cops,” protester Alexia Isais told KTLA. “We are demanding that police be held accountable for the killings they are committing, mostly against unarmed, marginalized people.”
The incident occurred at approximately 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, when a Tempe police officer responded to a report of a suspicious vehicle near the intersection of Baseline Road and 48th Street, KPNX reported.
As the officer approached the area, the suspect got out of a vehicle he had broken into and was carrying a handgun, police said.
The teen, later identified by his family as 14-year-old Antonio Arce, took off on foot, WLS reported.
During the foot chase that ensued, the teen refused to comply with the officers’ verbal commands, and ultimately began to turn towards them, KTLA reported.
One officer “perceived a threat and fired his service weapon striking the suspect,” police said, according to KPNX.
The officers immediately delivered CPR while they waited for an ambulance to respond to the scene.
Arce was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Investigators recovered items the teen had stolen from the vehicle, including an airsoft replica 1911 handgun.
“As with all officer-involved shootings, we will conduct a thorough investigation in conjunction with the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office,” the Tempe Police Department said on Wednesday, according to WLS.
Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell expressed his condolences for Arce’s family, and said he is confident the police department will conduct a thorough investigation into the events that led to the fatal shooting.
“This event is not an opportunity for speculation before all facts are known,” Mitchell said, according to KNXV.
“That is why I will wait to offer additional thoughts. I want to learn more as facts are verified and I know that our Police Department is working quickly and with the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office to do that,” he continued. “I ask for calm and thoughtful discourse and conduct within our community as the investigation continues.”
The owner of the burglarized vehicle defended Arce, and said that he should not have been shot for carrying the stolen gun because the weapon was a fake, KPNX reported.
“I would like to tell the family that the young man shouldn’t have died,” the vehicle owner told KPNX. “This young man, you know, he didn’t deserve to die for a cell phone that he took from me.”
Arce’s family and members of the community have alleged that police overreacted.
“I know he did a crime but they don’t gotta treat him that way!” one woman told KPNX.
Arce’s brother, Jason Gonzalez, said that the officers should have just used a Taser during the active foot pursuit.
“A police officer has a Taser gun, right? Why not shoot a Taser at him? I mean, he sees a young boy, you know?” Jason told KTLA.
Law enforcement Tasers have a maximum range of 15-25 feet, depending on the cartridge. The officer who shot Arce was much further away than 25 feet.
It’s against many department’s policies to use a Taser on somebody armed with a gun.
“My brother wouldn’t shoot. I know he wouldn’t shoot,” he added.
“I didn’t know him as someone who stole, that’s why I don’t believe that,” Jason told KTVK.
Arce’s mother, Sandra Gonzalez, alleged that Tempe police have attempted to depict her son as a criminal just because he was caught while committing a crime.
“If they want to tarnish my son, they are wrong,” she told KTLA. ““Apart from the fact that they killed him, they want to destroy him. No. I won’t allow it. I want justice.”
Approximately 100 protesters gathered outside the Tempe Police Department headquarters on Thursday night to denounce the shooting, The Arizona Republic reported.
Many held signs with phrases including “Protect Kids – Stop Shooting,” “Jail Killer Cops,” and “Justice for Antonio,” according to the paper.
The mob blocked the street, yelled profanities at officers, and initially ignored officers’ commands to move out of the roadway.
“I want you to know the worst racists exist in Phoenix, Arizona,” Sandra shouted. “They treat us as criminals. I want justice. I need justice.”
Jason demanded that police released bodycam footage of the shooting, and said his family wants an independent autopsy conducted without any police involvement.
Protester Redeem Robinson told the crowd that he was “tired of seeing mothers cry and weep over their sons who have been murdered by the police,” and vowed to support Arce’s family in their quest for “justice.”
“Tempe police, Phoenix police should not be able to eat and sleep in peace,” Robinson said, according to The Arizona Republic. “If we really mean ‘No Justice, No Peace,’ then damn it — no justice, no peace. That means we must interrupt and disrupt until these families right here get justice for their sons.”
The mob also verbally attacked a passerby who defended the officers and told them that the shooting was justified.
The protest eventually disbanded at approximately 8:20 p.m.
You can see the bodycam footage of the incident below. WARNING – Graphic Content: