U.S. Asked to Investigate SoCal Police Shooting

     SAN DIEGO (CN) — Hundreds of San Diegans turned out Wednesday calling for a federal investigation into the fatal police shooting of an unarmed, mentally ill black immigrant.
     A family member identified Alfred Olango late Tuesday night as the man who had been shot and killed by El Cajon police earlier in the day.
     At a press conference held by several social justice groups and black faith leaders at the El Cajon Police Department on Wednesday, activists said Olango was having some sort of mental health emergency when his sister called 911 three times within an hour to get help for her brother. Police arrived at a parking lot at Broadway and North Mollison in El Cajon, about 15 miles east of San Diego, shortly after 2 p.m. Tuesday and one of the responding officers eventually shot and killed Olango.
     A handful of leaders and activists spoke out against the way police revealed information to the public, with many calling directly on the dozens of reporters and media outlets to report not just on the shooting, but to call for more transparency. Many activists decried that the only press conference held so far by police was inside the police station for credentialed media only and excluded members of the public.
     Alliance San Diego associate director Chris Rice-Wilson said there were also some reports that at least a few Latino and black journalists were barred from covering the press conference.
     At one point during the rally a white man interrupted, leading dozens of activists to surround him shouting expletives and telling him to leave. The activists then forced him away from the press conference and out of the parking lot.
     Wilson said that outburst was exactly the type of response black Americans calling for justice and police reform face on a daily basis.
     “When we speak out, we’re told to shut up. But if black lives don’t matter, no life matters,” Wilson said.
     Others expressed fear that any interaction with the police could leave them or their loved ones dead. But the main focus of the press conference was that officers did not respond appropriately to a man who was having a mental health crisis, and perhaps did not even follow department policy for responding to such a call.
     A Sudanese woman and friend of Olango’s said the man was from Uganda. She said they bonded over bringing both their families to San Diego from Africa so they could have a better life.
     El Cajon Police Chief Jeff Davis acknowledged Tuesday night that the 911 caller who identified herself as Olango’s sister told dispatchers her brother was mentally ill and was unarmed. It’s not clear if dispatchers relayed that information to the responding officers.
     Police have not yet confirmed that Olango as the man officers killed, saying they need to get in touch with the victim’s family before publicly identifying him.
     Davis said the man “failed to comply with the directives he was given,” and kept his hands in his pockets while pacing. The man then “rapidly pulled an object” from his waistband and was simultaneously shot with Taser and gun by two officers.
     The names of the two officers involved have not yet been released, though Davis said they were put on administrative leave. He said both officers have more than 20 years of experience.
     Police have been mum on details before and after the shooting, including how quickly after police arrived Olango was shot, what time he died and when police knew he was dead. Davis did not say what Olango’s condition was at the 9 p.m. press conference, but a statement made available just 15 minutes afterward confirmed Olango had died. Police also declined to release a cellphone video of the shooting, instead opting to release a still frame which appears to show a black man holding his hands up just inches away from the face of one of the police officers.
     Davis cited a new countywide policy for releasing video evidence of police shootings, which allows the DA’s office to withhold videos that may be used as evidence in a criminal case.
     At Wednesday’s rally, Pastor Shane Harris said he went to the hospital where Olango was taken and talked to the man’s family. He said San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis “can’t be trusted” and called for a federal investigation.
     “We do not trust local prosecutors to investigate,” Harris said. “You will not sweep this under the carpet like you’ve done in other cases. Be bold like they were in Tulsa. Come out and show transparency. America’s finest city ain’t looking so fine right now.”
     El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells addressed the media Wednesday afternoon on the fatal police shooting and vowed to remain transparent throughout the shooting investigation being performed by three different agencies — the police department, District Attorney’s Office and Federal Bureau of Investigations.
     “We’re going to bounce back from this very well, but we need to get through the next few days,” Wells said. “A lot of the protesters feel frustrated by a system they feel does not work in their favor. We want to heal the situation as quickly and honestly as possible. As I get information, I’m going to give that to you if I’m able to do so. We are going to be transparent and we are going to give you that information. We are open to dialogue.”
     Many reporters resorted to asking the mayor specific questions about what happened before and after the shooting since police remained tight-lipped. Wells said the police did not plan to host another press conference for a few days.
     He also said he has seen the cellphone video of the shooting and called it devastating.
     “I saw a man who was distraught and acting in ways like he was in great pain and he got gunned down and killed. If he was my son, I’d be devastated,” Wells said.
     All El Cajon police officers receive training in handling mental health crisis calls, Wells said, though he did not know if all officers received the same amount of training.
     Multiple media reports claimed the officer who shot Olango was Richard Gonsalves, an officer who had been previously demoted within the department following a sexual harassment scandal. The Associated Press also reported Olango was shot by officers within a minute of their arrival, though the department has not issued a public statement confirming that.

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