The alley where a Tempe police officer shot Antonio Arce, 14, has barely changed in the last year.
Trash still covers the ground and the same “watch out for dogs” signs hang from the doors that lead to the backyards.
But there is a change, in the place where Arce was shot in the back by former officer Joseph Jaen on January 15, 2019. That place is marked by the words “justice for Antonio” spray-painted on a wall, the only one Permanent reminder of what happened there.
Arce’s mother and brother traveled the same route Antonio ran, flanked by dozens of other mourners carrying posters and candles on Wednesday night, the anniversary of his death.
About 50 on vigil on the anniversary of Arce’s death
The group of approximately 50 people stopped at a solitary candle in the place where Arce lay dying in the street a few minutes before taking his last breath a year ago.
The voice of Arce’s mother, Sandra González, was clear and strong even through her tears. She asked why this had happened and how the officer who shot her son simply stood and watched him die instead of helping out. Her job was to protect and serve, but she says he did the opposite of her son.
“I need justice,” he demanded in Spanish repeatedly.
Jaén shot Arce while responding to reports of a vehicle theft. The images of the body camera showed that the teenager was running away from the officer and never pointed a gun at him. A non-lethal airsoft gun with an orange tip to indicate that the weapon was not lethal was found under his body.
His murder marked the youngest person shot by the police since at least 2011, and possibly much longer.
Gonzalez begged hysterically directly to the cameras for answers and something was done while his family tried to get her away from the lights. Her lawyer, Daniel Ortega, says she is cathartic for her. She wants to be heard after feeling ignored for so long. She wants them, the city, the Tempe police, everyone to know she is angry. Jaén removed his 14-year-old son.
She did not stop even after the cameras went out.
Family, still waiting for a ruling, files a lawsuit
The Arce family has spent the last year waiting for the Maricopa County Prosecutor’s Office to decide if the shooting was justified. The first anniversary weighs on them, especially without a decision.
His pain was only increased by the recent release of body camera images that represent the moments before the shooting, the chase and the emergency response afterwards. The images of Arce’s body are worded, but Ortega said it was still too much for a mother to see her son’s death moments on the television news.
Ortega and the family filed a lawsuit against Jaén and Tempe on Monday.
Sandra González (center) shouts while marching with other mourners during a candlelight vigil for her son, Antonio Arce, in an alley in Tempe on January 15, 2020. A year ago, a Tempe police officer shot and killed the 14 years – while fleeing with a soft air gun. (Photo: Michael Chow / The Republic)
The lawsuit alleges that Jaén shot Arce despite the fact that the boy did not present any threat and did not point the replica gun at the officer. He also alleges that Jaen, who wore a patrol uniform and a marked car, did not identify himself as an officer and that he was approximately 116 feet from a running Maple when Jaen fired his weapon.
Ortega also states in the lawsuit that the city allowed Jaén to continue working as an officer despite the fact that officials knew he was suffering from a post-traumatic stress disorder.
The claim notice filed in July said the family was looking for $ 5 million to resolve the case.
Officer resigned, retired
Jaen resigned from the department shortly after the shooting and since then he has medically retired.
Of the more than 400 cases of police shootings that the Maricopa County Prosecutor’s Office has reviewed from 2011 to 2018, an officer was charged with murder and then acquitted by a jury.
Tempe police will also conduct their own administrative investigation, which will determine whether the officer must face disciplinary action separately from the county prosecutor’s decisions. Generally, this can vary from recommending additional training to a suspension or termination.
It is not clear what options they may have now that Jaén is no longer in the department.
Contact the public safety reporter Bree Burkitt at [email protected] or 602-444-8515. Follow her on Twitter at @breeburkitt.
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