SAN DIEGO (CN) — The San Diego District Attorney and police officials released cellphone video Friday which shows the moments before an unarmed black man was shot and killed by an El Cajon police officer with a history of misconduct.
El Cajon Police Chief Jeff Davis said the unanimous decision by local law enforcement leaders to release the cellphone and surveillance video of Ugandan refugee Alfred Olango being shot and killed by Officer Richard Gonsalves Tuesday was "in the spirit of public safety."
San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, Sheriff Bill Gore, El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells and other local police chiefs decided in a conference call Friday morning it was best to "calm community concerns" and release the video footage, Davis said.
The video shown was less than two minutes long and had been edited, with the faces of those involved blurred. The first clip was taken from a surveillance camera at a nearby fast food restaurant, just feet from where Olango was shot four times in the city 15 miles east of San Diego.
The footage shows a black man being approached in the strip mall parking lot by a police officer who had his gun drawn. The man appears uneasy, but never runs away from the officer. At one point the officer — identified as Gonsalves — points his gun at Olango, who had his hands outside his pockets.
A patrol car then approaches and the second officer — identified Friday as Officer Josh McDaniel — gets out of the vehicle. The officers appear to corner the man near a parked truck and he is shot with gun and Taser simultaneously and falls to the ground.
The second clip, taken from cellphone video voluntarily handed over to police by a witness, showed much of the same but included sound.
A pedestrian nearby appears to have tried to approach officers during the altercation saying, "Officer don't shoot him," and is seen running away once the shots Gonsalves fired the shots. Davis did not say if that person was Olango's sister who had called 911 three times in the hour before the shooting.
The sister told dispatchers her brother was "not acting like himself" and was having some type of mental health emergency. Olango was reported to have been walking in and out of traffic, and it turned out he was upset over losing his best friend to suicide.
Davis confirmed Friday that Gonsalves and McDaniel, both 21-year department veterans, were told by dispatchers it was a mental health call and the 911 caller had said Olango was unarmed. The two officers responded separately, and a Psychiatric Emergency Response team that was out on another call was sent to the scene but did not arrive before Olango was shot, Davis said.
Gonsalves was previously demoted following a sexual harassment scandal where he was found to have sent sexually explicit text messages to a subordinate female officer.
Davis said Olango's family was given the opportunity to see the video Friday morning but chose not to view it. He has not personally met or talked with them.
Davis said he initially released a zoomed-in still frame cellphone photo - which many have criticized as "framing the narrative" to favor Gonsalves - in order to debunk "misinformation" the police chief said was being spread by people claiming to have witnessed the shooting.
The photo showed a black man standing just inches away from an officer with his hands held up and pointing at the officer's face while in what Davis called a "shooting stance." Members of the community — and the media — were unhappy the department opted to release a still frame instead of letting the public see the video for themselves.
The object Olango was pointing at police turned out to be an e-cigarette. Davis had a similar e-cigarette with him at Friday's press conference to show how Gonsalves could have mistaken it for a gun or other weapon.
The police chief cited the new countywide policy which gives the San Diego County District Attorney control over cellphone and other video evidence from police shootings when he decided to initially keep the video under wraps. The shooting of Olango is the first police shooting in San Diego to test the new regionwide policy.
Olango's shooting is being investigated by the police department, District Attorney's Office and Federal Bureau of Investigations.
El Cajon businesses were reportedly advised by police and the president of a local business association to close early and remain closed until Sunday in anticipation of community unrest following the video's release.
Multiple rallies and protests were planned for Saturday including a rally at the Promenade Park in El Cajon that Olango's family was expected to attend.
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