El Cajon police and DA release video of Alfred Olango’s shooting – CBS 8 San Diego
WARNING: Video contains graphic content that may not be suitable for some viewers.
[The Downtown El Cajon Business Partners has issued a statement on its website encouraging all downtown businesses to close early and remain closed until at least Sunday morning due to expected protests following the release of video showing the fatal shooting of Alfred Olango.]
SAN DIEGO (CBS 8/CNS) – Following an onslaught of demand that the images be made public, authorities Friday released video clips showing a patrolman fatally shooting an unarmed Ugandan immigrant during a confrontation at an El Cajon strip mall.
El Cajon police Chief Jeff Davis told reporters he decided to disseminate the cellphone and surveillance-camera footage documenting 38-year-old Alfred Olango’s death — decried by protesters as an unwarranted andracially motivated killing of a black man — to counter a “false narrative …that could be dangerous to the community.”
VIDEO: Witness cell phone video showing fatal shooting of Alfred Olango (WARNING: Graphic Video)
The move followed three days of increasingly restive demonstrations on the streets of the eastern San Diego County city. On Thursday night, protesters stopped vehicles, broke car windows, knocked a motorcycle rider to the ground and hurled rocks, bottles and bricks at law enforcement personnel, Lt. Rob Ransweiler said. Officers used tear-gas “pepper balls” to disperse the crowds, and five people were arrested.
The events that led to the fatal confrontation began when officers were dispatched to investigate three emergency calls from Olango’s sister reporting that he was behaving erratically and walking in traffic in a commercial district a few blocks north of El Cajon Valley High School.
According to news reports, it took officers 50 minutes to respond to the woman’s requests for aid.
Authorities released two videos of the shooting. Each was recorded alongside a fast-food restaurant — one by a surveillance camera next to a drive-through window, the other by a witness who recorded it on her cellphone.
The snippets show Officers Richard Gonsalves and Josh McDaniel approaching Olango, seen striding through a parking area and then pacing back and forth next to a parked pickup truck. Following a brief face-off, gunshots sound, and Olango collapses to the pavement.
Officials have confirmed that Gonsalves fired his service gun at Olango as McDaniel simultaneously shot him with an electric stun gun.
In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, one witness told reporters that Olango had his hands raised when he was fatally wounded, and others said he had been suffering a seizure.
Police officials have countered that Olango was uncooperative, repeatedly refused to remove his hand from his pocket, assumed “what appeared to be a shooting stance” and pointed at Gonsalves an object that turned out to be an electronic smoking device.
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“This is as difficult a situation as any officer will ever encounter and is never one we seek,” the chief said this afternoon. “That being the case, a tragic event occurred that took a life and had a major impact on our community. For the sake of the well-being of the community, the decision was made to show you this video and provide copies to the media.”
Several local African-American community leaders hailed the release of the visual clips.
The Rev. Gerald Brown, executive director the United African-American Ministerial Action Council, commended the police chief and District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis for making the footage available to the public as a means of reducing the potential for discord and violence.
“It is OK to protest, but we want folks to protest in peace,” Brown said. “We want to make sure that everyone’s safe, everyone gets home. We want to make sure that the (police) officers are safe, as well.”
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Andre Branch, president of the San Diego office of the NAACP, said the agency wanted to “both applaud and commend Chief Jeff Davis and the city of El Cajon for releasing this video.”
“The NAACP believes that this is the action that should follow any and all police-involved shootings,” Branch said. “Full disclosure to the public builds trust, and it demonstrates respect. We are quite pleased that Chief Davis has decided to take this action.”
On Thursday, relatives and supporters of Olango gathered to decry the killing and pledge to fight for justice while calling for peaceful protests.
“We do believe that Alfred Olango was unjustly killed,” the Rev. Shane Harris, president of the National Action Network-San Diego, said during a Thursday afternoon news conference at the civil rights organization’s Midway-area offices. “We do believe that the officer who shot him five times did this with misconduct, and that is why we are here today.”
Friday morning, East County religious leaders held a prayer meeting outside El Cajon police headquarters, where some of the angry and despairing demonstrations over the fatal police shooting have taken place.
The Rev. Rolland Slade of Meridian Baptist Church called for transparency, transformation and kindness in a nation that has “seen division and separation long enough.”
“The events of Tuesday, September 27 were tragic, and they must be acknowledged,” he said. “We, Lord — the region, the community, the neighborhood, the family of Alfred Olango — have been dramatically changed.”
Olango’s mother, Pamela Benge, said Thursday that her son was distraught at the time of the shooting due to the death of a close friend, disputing reports that he was mentally ill.
“He was not mental — he had a mental breakdown,” she said, telling reporters he simply needed help at the time of the deadly confrontation with police.
“My son (was) a good, loving young man, only 38 years old,” she said. “I wanted his future to be longer than that. I wanted him to enjoy his daughter.”
The grieving mother said her family came to the United States 25 years ago to escape armed conflict in their homeland.
“We have come from a war zone,” she said. “We wanted protection. That’s why we’re here. … There are millions of refugees that are here, just searching for a better place. … I thought a lovely nice country like this would rotect us. We just need protection, that’s all.”
On Wednesday, El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells said he was “completely fine” with peaceful dissent in response to the use of lethal police force but was concerned about the potential for violence.
“I see what’s happening all over the country,” Wells told reporters. “Of course I’m worried. … I don’t expect anything bad to happen, but I certainly don’t want to be caught unaware.”
Hours after the shooting, police made public a still photo lifted from witness video that showed a crouching man holding something at face level as two officers apparently trained weapons on him. Protesters decried the release of just one photo instead of the entire video.
Wells said he had seen the full footage and was deeply affected by it but was holding off on any judgments.
“I saw a man who was distraught, a man who was acting in ways that looked like he was in great pain,” Wells said. “And I saw him get gunned down and killed, and it broke my heart.”
Gonsalves and McDaniel, each of whom has 21 years of law enforcement experience, were placed on administrative leave, as per department protocol. Officials promised a thorough and transparent investigation, but protesters demanded an investigation at the federal level.
San Diego attorney Dan Gilleon, who has been advising Olango’s family, told reporters Gonsalves was demoted last year for making unwanted sexual advances toward a female subordinate.
“I think anywhere in the country, that’s worthy of being terminated,” Gilleon said of the accusations against Gonsalves, which surfaced in a lawsuit filed by the alleged victim.
“(Department officials) didn’t do that. … And the fact the that they rallied behind him back then just begs the question … maybe that’s why they’re rallying behind him right now?” the attorney said.
Olango was born in Kampala, Uganda, one of nine children. His mother and siblings immigrated to New York as refugees in 1991, apparently because his father — who worked for the late Ugandan President Idi Amin — made threats of violence against them.
The family eventually moved to Southern California, and Olango attended San Diego High School for a time before dropping out, though he later earned a GED. According to his Facebook page, he attended San Diego Mesa College and worked at a Hooters restaurant.
In 2002, an immigration judge ordered Olango deported following his conviction for transporting and selling narcotics, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The next year, following repeated unsuccessful attempts by ICE to obtain a travel document for Olango from the Ugandan government, he was discharged from ICE custody.
His release was necessitated by a Supreme Court ruling that precludes the agency from holding foreign nationals with final orders of removal for more than six months if their deportation cannot occur within the “reasonably foreseeable future.”
ICE then placed Olango under an order of supervision, directing him to report to the agency on a regular basis.
In 2009, he was returned to ICE custody after serving a prison term for a conviction on a firearms charge in Colorado. At that point, the federal agency renewed its efforts to obtain a travel document from the Ugandan government. Those efforts were futile once again, leading to another supervised release.
Olango reported in as required until February 2015, after which he failed to appear, according to ICE. The agency then lost contact with him, a spokeswoman said.
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