Loved ones of a teenager who was shot by deputies demanded justice on Monday from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, whose deputies they say used unnecessary lethal force on the teen.
Joshua Alvarez, 16, was in critical condition in a hospital days after he was shot by sheriff’s deputies for allegedly wielding a hammer at authorities when they responded to a domestic disturbance call from a family member Saturday night in Highland.
That family member was Alvarez' aunt, Joana Bonilla, who said she wishes she never picked up the phone to call for help.
"I regret it every minute," Bonilla said.
Dozens of protesters on Monday chanted, "No justice, no peace," outside the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department and held signs that read "Jail killer cops," and "SAN BERNARDINO SHERIFF, FBI & DOJ INVESTIGATION NEEDED."
The family is demanding "justice for Joshua" and answers as to why deputies did not use a less lethal weapon on the teen.
"I feel like they should have used a different force on him because he’s a minor," said the boy’s mother, Elizabeth Camacho.
The boy was arguing with his brother when sheriff’s deputies responded to the home. As the deputies tried to contact Alvarez, he allegedly turned toward the deputies and attempted to attack them with a hammer and a sharp instrument, sheriff's officials said.
The deputies then shot Alvarez.
"It would appear at this point the sheriff used excessive force, lethal force on someone that wasn’t a threat," said Martin Kaufman, an attorney for the family.
Sheriff’s officials told NBC4 the teen refused commands to drop the hammer.
"After the incident, when we were giving medical aid to him, we asked why he didn’t drop the hammer, and in that moment he told the deputies that he wanted to die," said San Bernardino Sheriff’s Cpl. Lolita Harper.
Friends and family say the whole situation has made them lose all faith in law enforcement.
"Now we are afraid of calling the cops, because, are they going to be shooting our kids?" said Alva Alvarez, Joshua’s aunt.
The deputies in question are on paid leave as the case is being reviewed by internal investigators, officials said.