Police fatally shoot black man they say took ‘shooting stance’ in San Diego suburb, sparking protests – Washington Post

EL CAJON, CALIF. — Police in this city near San Diego say they were responding Tuesday to a report of a man acting erratically when he pulled something from his pocket and took “a shooting stance,” prompting officers to fatally shoot him, authorities said.

Relatives identified this man as Alfred Olango and described him as “mentally challenged,” saying that his sister had called police to say that he was walking in traffic and acting erratically.

The police and the county district attorney will both investigate the shooting, officials said, even as residents called Wednesday for authorities to release video footage showing what happened.

Olango’s death came as tension lingers in Charlotte over a deadly police shooting there a week earlier, which sparked a renewed focus nationwide on how officers use deadly force, and it prompted protests and a prayer vigil in this city in southern California.

When police responded, Olango initially “refused multiple instructions by the first officer on the scene and concealed his hand in his pants pocket,” Jeff Davis, the city’s police chief, said during a news conference describing the shooting. Davis said a second officer arrived and was prepared to use a Taser to stun Olango, who was pacing while officers spoke to him.

“At one point, the male rapidly drew an object from his front pants pocket, placed both hands together on it and extended it rapidly towards the officer, taking what appeared to be a shooting stance, putting the object in the officer’s face,” Davis said.

As one officer used the Taser to try to subdue Olango, “simultaneously, the officer who had the object pointed at him” fired his gun and hit Olango, Davis said.

Police say Olango, who they described as being in his 30s, was struck multiple times. He was given first aid before being taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead, police say. The two officers involved, who have not been identified by police, have been placed on three-day administrative leave.

Friends said that Olango may have suffered a seizure before the incident on Tuesday.

Mental health issues are a factor in about a quarter fatal police shootings, according to a Washington Post database tracking such incidents nationwide. The man in El Cajon was at least the 716th person shot and killed by police this year. If it turns out he was suffering from mental illness, he would be the 173rd person in the database where such issues were reported.

Police are on pace to shoot to death about the same number of people this year as last year, when officers fatally shot nearly 1,000 people. People with reported mental health issues account for about one in four of the fatal shootings this year, the same share as last year.

Experts say such shootings highlight the issue of how often police are called to respond to people in mental or emotional crisis — and whether police training adequately prepares them to handle those calls.

In most cases last year where people with reported mental illnesses were fatally shot by police, the people were armed but were not shot by officers responding to reports of crimes. Instead, police had been called by relatives or bystanders worried about the person behaving erratically; last year, this included dozens of explicitly suicidal people.

El Cajon is a blue-collar city of about 103,000 residents, most of them white, 15 miles east of San Diego. When police responded just after 2 p.m. Tuesday afternoon to the area behind a Los Ponchos Mexican restaurant in a strip mall, they were called about a man “not acting like himself,” the department said in a statement.

Olango’s sister took part in a protest rally and prayer vigil on Tuesday night outside the police department’s headquarters.

This shooting occurred on the heels of fatal police shootings of black men in Tulsa, Okla., and Charlotte. The shooting in Charlotte, which occurred almost exactly a week before Olango was killed, has led to heated demonstrations and rioting in that city.

Davis, the police chief, asked residents to allow time for the shooting in El Cajon to be investigated thoroughly. He promised transparency and said that “this will be looked at by many sets of eyes, not just ours.”

Alluding to the other shootings that have drawn attention, Davis added: “In light of what’s happening nationally I think it’s important that we convey that message.”

On Wednesday morning, about three dozen residents held a news conference outside the police headquarters to demand the release of the full video of the incident. Tension building from other controversial shootings nationwide was evident.

“I have been a black man for 56 years, none of this is new to me, ” said Eddie Price, an activist. He implored reporters to tell how black people are treated by police.

“I am tired of walking around like I am a target, like my son is a target,” he said.

One person held a sign that read “Stop the genocide,” while activist Armand King, 34, said “the police murdered someone last night.”

A Los Ponchos employee reportedly caught the shooting on a cellphone video, which the worker turned over to authorities. Police released an image they said was a frame from a video being reviewed by investigators that appears to show the man in a parking lot with his arms forward, hands clasped, while two officers face him with weapons drawn.

Police have not identified the object they say the man pulled from his pants in El Cajon, but Davis said it was not a gun.

Video of the immediate aftermath of the shooting was uploaded to Facebook Live by Rumbie Mubaiwa. The footage shows a woman, reportedly the sister of the victim, wailing uncontrollably and repeating the phrase, “You just killed my brother.”

“I called you to help me, but you killed my brother,” the sister said.

“They didn’t even tell her if her brother was still alive,” Mubaiwa said on the video.

In a recorded interview with KNSD, Michael Rodriguez, who said he had been 15 to 20 feet away from the shooting, said, “I see a black male coming out with his hands up.” According to Rodriguez, three officers approached the man, and when he tried to run, Rodriguez said, they fired five shots into his torso.

But the man’s sister told KNSD that her brother was not showing his hands to police and was not complying with the police’s orders.

Police officials posted on Twitter that video provided to authorities showed that the man’s hands were not raised in the air when he was shot:

In May, the El Cajon police department announced it would be outfitting its officers with body cameras, but this program, scheduled to start next year, has not yet been implemented.

Witnesses originally reported that police confiscated cellphones from those in the area, which prompted the San Diego ACLU to release a statement that read, in part:

… by seizing phones, police would likely be preventing the dissemination of video captured by bystanders. The public has the right to film police in public places, and police officers may not confiscate or demand to view your digital photos or video without a warrant. Under no circumstances may police officers delete your photos or videos.

Police have denied the suggestion that phones were seized. During his news conference, Davis again emphasized that the cellphone video given to officers was handed over voluntarily.

“That witness voluntarily provided the telephone cellphone video to the police department, giving written…consent to the officers to view the video,” Davis said. “And in fact, she gave us the code to her cellphone to unlock it to get the video.”

Davis said this was the only cellphone footage provided to officers and again said no phones were taken from any people.

The shooting may be a test of a policy developed this year by San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, in consultation with the county’s police chiefs, regarding the release of videos in cases where officers shoot people.

Dumanis promised to release such videos but only after all investigations are complete and the video can be placed in context with all information. The policy was developed after criticism by the American Civil Liberties Union and a lawsuit by media organizations over Dumanis’s refusal to release videos from the fatal shooting of an Afghan immigrant by a San Diego police officer. Videos were released after Dumanis determined that the shooting was justified.

A spokeswoman for Dumanis’s office said that it would review this case, as it does any case when a police officer shoots someone in San Diego County.

After the shooting Tuesday, a crowd began gathering in the parking lot near where Olango was shot and remained there later in the evening.

Video taken at the scene shows protesters chanting “black lives matter” and “hands up, don’t shoot.”

At some point in the evening, the crowd formed a prayer circle.

Andrews and Berman reported from Washington.

Further reading:

Two years after Ferguson, where is the police reform?

Distraught people, deadly results

Aren’t more white people than black people killed by police? Yes, but no.

Charlotte police officer did not activate body camera until after shooting

This developing story has been updated since it was first published at 1:57 a.m. Check back for updates. 

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