Las Vegas, NV – On February 19, 2021, Jorge Antonio Gomez would have turned 26 years old. However, it was the first birthday that Jorge was not able to spend with his family. Instead of his family decorating their house, giving a birthday call, or blowing out candles, they gathered outside the Lloyd D. George Federal Building in downtown Las Vegas. They chose to celebrate his birthday here because it is the exact location where Jorge Gomez was gunned down by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) at a Black Lives Matter protest on June 1, 2020 at 11:23 PM.
After his death, community members came forward to tell Jorge’s mother Jeanne Llera about their experiences with Jorge earlier that night at the protest. Jorge took pepper ball shots so women near him could get away. He gave his last five dollars to a veteran who was experiencing homelessness while bound to a wheelchair. Jorge hugged a grieving mother, Carol Luke, who lost her son Thomas McEniry in an LVMPD police shooting in November of 2015. Jorge had no way of knowing that his own mother would later grieve in the same way.
Downtown Las Vegas frequently becomes crowded with people celebrating and partying. The city makes initiatives to bring people to Las Vegas but when the people start gathering because Black Lives Matter, they deploy a militarized police force to address a peaceful protest. The murder of Jorge Gomez is representative of a system that enables rogue officers to murder a pedestrian for believing Black people should live and police should stop murdering civilians.
Jorge Gomez was 25 years old and he loved the outdoors and nature. His childhood affinity for animals transpired in his short adulthood as vegetarianism and a dream to become a veterinary pathologist. He had two jobs before the COVID19 pandemic hit and was back in Vegas for about six weeks to ride out the pandemic with his dad but he had plans to move back to Oregon.
On June 1, 2020, Jorge sent a text to his dad letting him know that he was on his way from leaving a Black Lives Matter protest. While Jorge was walking to his car on a public sidewalk, he was under surveillance by police because he was exercising his Second Amendment right in an open carry state with his unloaded firearm hanging from a strap across his body. Jorge was walking towards a crosswalk so that he could cross and get to his car and as he was waiting for the pedestrian light to change, he observed protesters getting arrested across the street. Surveillance videos show he had nothing in his hands and even interlocked his hands together. That’s when an officer above the stairs of the Federal Building rushed down at him. An additional six to seven officers remained at the top of the stairs.
Officer John Squeo, who was at the top of the stairs, fired five low lethal rounds at him. Jorge was surprised and ran back the way he came. When he turned to run away, he stumbled and fell with his backpack. When he got up, the strap to his backpack was on his right hand and he continued to run. Jorge was not running in the direction of any officer. Nonetheless, Four officers across the street opened fire on Jorge. Sergeant Ryan Fryman fired seven lethal rounds. Officer Dan Emerton fired four lethal rounds. Officer Vernon Ferguson fired three lethal rounds. Officer Andrew Locher fired five lethal rounds. Jorge was shot with 19 lethal rounds while he was trying to walk to his car to go home.
After Jorge was shot in the back, side, and head, he made his best attempt to lift his head above the pool of his own blood. While he was fighting for his life, the officers went toward him, kicked him, and handcuffed him. When emergency medical technicians arrived the officers refused Jorge any medical attention. After 22 minutes of Jorge laying on the floor and clinging onto his life he was transported to UMC Hospital and pronounced dead.
There were over 30 cameras in the area and over 20 officers with body worn cameras that had Jorge in their immediate sight. However, the family of Jorge Gomez had to sue LVMPD and get the US State Attorney Office involved in order to have only some of the footage released. They fought for nine months to get a glimpse at how Jorge was ripped away from them. On Jorge’s birthday, his family and their legal representatives released six new videos they spent eight months fighting for. According to Jeanne Llera, the mother of Jorge Gomez, LVMPD still refuses to release the body-worn camera footage of any of the officers that were present. They also refuse to release the videos across the street from the Foley Courthouse.
On April 16th, 2021, the Clark County District Attorney’s Office will have a public fact finding review to explain why the officers involved in the murder of Jorge Gomez will not be criminally indicted. According to what the Las Vegas community has experienced for years, the fact finding review will not be fair and the questions will be cherry picked to avoid transparency. In addition, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department will have a representative from the Force Investigations Team because they currently investigate themselves. The decision not to indict comes just days after Wolfson testified in support of the death penalty at the Nevada State Legislature despite copious amounts of evidence that it disproportionately affects Black and Brown people.
The family of Jorge Gomez has gathered several items to push for his justice. They have created a petition. In addition, they have inspired two bills, AB 131 and AB 133, in the 2021 Nevada State Legislative session. Current protocol requires certain police who work with the public often to wear a body-worn camera while on duty (NRS 289.830) and AB 131 expands the body cam requirement to police who are in uniform and on duty who may have an encounter with a civilian.
AB 133 Section 1 expands on existing police officer training (NRS 289.550-289.605) to require “each law enforcement agency to provide training to peace officers in approaching and interacting with a person who is openly carrying a firearm.” AB 133 Section 2 expands on existing requirements for police officers “who routinely interact with the public to wear a portable event recording device while on duty. (NRS 289.830)” to include on-duty police officers who are in uniform and interaction with the public. Tell your legislators that you support these two bills by going to NELIS.
On the last day of his life, Jorge made a Facebook post that read, “I know people are tired and passionate, but don’t forget to take care of yourself.” It’s demonstrative of the kind and caring nature Jorge had until the very end. As we prepare for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department to attack Jorge’s reputation, we must remember to ground ourselves in community and change. Let us remember that Jorge stood with all of us and we will stand with him.