Updated as of March 18.
Over 30 people gathered at Seaside Park as the sun went down on Saturday, Feb. 20 to mourn the death of 26-year-old Anthony Loia who was fatally shot and killed by the Long Beach Police Department.
“His smile lit up a room, his laughter was contagious, his entire being radiated sunshine and warmth. He was a son, a father, a brother, a cousin. But like many of us he had experienced deep pain, trauma and heartache by a young age. He was light and darkness,” a statement read out loud on behalf of Loia’s family said.
LBPD officers fatally shot Loia on Saturday, Feb. 6 near the corner of 14th Street and Magnolia Avenue after police responded to a call about a man with a gun, according to a media release from LBPD.
According to LBPD, the preliminary investigation alleges that Loia was walking in the area pointing a firearm at multiple passing vehicles and at least four different individuals. No injuries were reported.
LBPD also claims that Loia was brandishing a firearm when officers arrived. They stated that Loia allegedly wouldn’t drop the firearm after they repeatedly told him to. The police department also released a photo of the gun they said was found at the scene.
However, a statement read on behalf of Loia’s family during the Feb. 20 vigil told a different story. It claimed that witnesses had seen Loia cooperating with police before they shot him multiple times.
“Anthony was murdered by the Long Beach Police Department,” the family’s statement said.
Long Beach resident Veronica Zamora was driving on Magnolia Avenue when she witnessed the shooting occur. She also disputed LBPD’s statement that Loia was brandishing a gun at them and said that Loia was allegedly cooperating.
“I was driving right past it when I saw the cops shoot him, I witnessed the murder. They shot him like 10-15 times, there was a bunch of police cars, they all shot him at the same time. He was unarmed with his hands up and they fired at him,” Zamora said.
“I was in shock. I’ve never seen anything like that in person. There were multiple cops shooting at him,” she said.
Fransisco Aleman was on his way home on Magnolia Avenue before he stopped near the scene to film as he saw multiple police surrounding Loia. “He was unarmed, they shot him like 10 times,” Aleman said. He also alleged that Loia had his arms raised in the air before they shot him, “He gave up, he gave up, he gave up,” he said.
Body camera footage from LBPD later disproved the claims that Loia was unarmed.
The Signal Tribune reached out to LBPD and the LA County Coroner for information regarding the amount of times Loia was shot but the information has not been released as of publication time.
In the family’s statement, the death of Loia, who was Latino, was attributed to current methods of police training and racial bias.
“Officers are trained to fear,” the statement said, adding that Black and Latino individuals are often seen as threats and met with deadly force by police.
According to policescorecard.org, which gathers statistics about every police department in the state using data from California’s OpenJustice database, public records requests, national databases and media reports, LBPD officers used deadly force or caused serious injury to 17 Latinos from 2016 to 2018.
There was a total of 49 individuals who were killed or seriously injured from 2016 to 2018 during encounters with LBPD, with 35% being Latino, and 35% being Black, the highest percentages in the the data, in comparison to white at 22%, Asian and Pacific Islander at 6% and 8% marked as “other”.
Latinos made up approximately 43% of Long Beach’s population during this time period. In comparison, Black residents who also represent 35% of those killed or seriously injured by LBPD, made up 12% of the city’s population.
According to data from the City of Long Beach, from 2015 to 2019, 33 individuals were involved in 32 separate officer involved shootings (OIS) with LBPD. Of these, 15 individuals, equivalent to 45.45% of the total, were Latino. Nine out of the 33 were Black, making up 27.27% of the total people who were in OIS with LBPD. In contrast, three white people were in OIS, making up 9.09%.
“Anthony’s family knows that there are officers who do their jobs for honest and noble purposes. But the bias is there. The racism is there, and no one wants to address it,” the family’s statement continued.
None of the five officers involved in the shooting were hurt, and all of them were wearing body cameras. Under an amendment made in 2018 to an existing 2017 California law, the department has 45 days to review and then release the footage after it’s requested.
Loia’s sisters, brother, mother, cousin, girlfriend and children attended the vigil.
Among their supporters was the family of Cesar Rodriguez, including his sister and mother, who traveled to Long Beach to show their solidarity with Loia’s family on Saturday. Rodriguez was fatally hit by a train while LBPD officer Martin Ron was detaining him. His family will be holding a protest in Long Beach next weekend in order to try to get his case reopened by the new Los Angles County District Attorney George Gascon.
The Long Beach chapter of Black Lives Matter was also present at the vigil in support of Loia’s family. One of their members led a pouring of libations as the crowd repeated the names of those who have passed, ending with Anthony Loia’s name as the last drops of water were poured out.
After dark, attendees lit candles as the vigil came to an end and placed them in front of a tree near Seaside Park’s parking lot, where a Raiders hat, prayer cards, a cut out of the Virgin Mary and photos of Loia had been hung up to make a memorial. Among the candles were gummy worms, Corona beer, flowers, balloons and more which had been offered in his memory.
Update, March 18, 6:08 p.m.— Body camera footage released by the Long Beach Police Department shows that Anthony Loia was armed when he was shot by police officers. This story has been updated with a line of clarification to reflect this.