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Protesters demand justice for 14-year-old boy killed by Tempe police officer

ASU students were among the crowd protesting in front of Tempe police headquarters


ASU global studies freshman and student activist Alexia Isais speaks to protesters through a megaphone near the Tempe Campus in Tempe, Arizona, on Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019.

A crowd of nearly 100 people protested in front of the Tempe Police headquarters Thursday night to demand justice for a teenage boy who was fatally shot by a police officer earlier in the week.

Fourteen-year-old Antonio Arce was shot on Tuesday by a Tempe police officer who allegedly mistook the airsoft gun Arce was holding for a weapon. 

Officials said that they found the boy burglarizing a vehicle and chased him down, as reported in an article by The Arizona Republic. The officer noticed the gun and "perceived a threat" before fatally shooting him, the article said.

The protest was coordinated by several organizations, including Black Lives Matter Metro Phoenix and the Party for Socialism and Liberation

Arce’s family, including his parents and brother, were at the protest and asked for the police to release an autopsy and body camera footage of the incident. 

The protest then escalated after the crowd blocked the street near 120 E. Fifth St., making it so cars could not pass through and shouting at the police officers who were monitoring the protest from a distance. 

Alexia Isais, a freshman studying global studies at ASU, attended the protest as a member of the Phoenix chapter of the Party for Socialism and Liberation.

“We attended because we want to see an end to the criminalization of marginalized people, and instead want to see the criminalization of the police who are murdering people on the streets," Isais said.

The protesters attempted to march down the street but were told shortly after by police that they would be arrested, causing them to return to their original location. 

In a statement issued Friday, a Tempe Police Department spokesperson expressed "condolences" to Arce's family and said the department is "committed to a thorough investigation."

The statement said the department supports and respects "those who choose to peacefully share their concerns."

Rachel Macias, a global health senior at ASU, said she attended the protest because the shooting hit close to home for her. 

“Police violence is something that’s more personal to me as I’ve been a victim of discrimination a lot in my life," Macias said. "This kid Antonio, he looked like my cousin. I almost was bawling because this could have been one of my family members that was shot."

Macias said it is important for community members to show up at protests for families like Arce's.

"It’s really important to show the family that the community is there for them because a lot of times, it feels really isolating for this to happen and nobody cares," she said. "You see it on the news, but what about if it's your son that was shot?"

Police said at a press conference Friday that the officer involved in the shooting, identified only as Officer Jaen, has been placed on administrative leave while criminal and administrative investigations ensue. Jaen has worked for the Tempe police department for 14 years, according to Tempe Police Chief Sylvia Moir. 

Moir said that the situation was "rapidly evolving," and that Jaen fired two shots at Arce, one of which hit him in the shoulder blade. Arce was then transported to the hospital, where he was later declared deceased.

Moir asked that the public "withhold judgment" about the case until the investigations are completed. The department did not take questions from media during the event. 

This story will be updated as more information becomes available. It was last updated on Friday, Jan. 18 at 5:00 p.m.

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