SAN DIEGO (CN) – The day before he was shot and killed by a police officer in El Cajon, California, in 2016, Alfred Olango stopped by his family’s house to tell his estranged wife and his teen daughter he loved them, his wife testified during his wrongful death trial Monday, recalling his “strange” behavior.
Olango, a Ugandan refugee, was shot by El Cajon Police Officer Richard Gonsalves on Sept. 26, 2016, after his sister, Lucy Olango, called police because her brother was suffering a mental health crisis.
When he stopped by his Taina Rozier’s house to tell her and their daughter, Chare Rozier-Olango, he loved them, Rozier could tell something was wrong.
“He was acting unusual. He was obviously bothered. He was sad. He was different. He was acting strange,” Rozier testified Monday.
Rozier said through tears that even though she and Olango were separated, they were still legally married and “were a family.”
She and her daughter, Chare Rozier-Olango, filed the wrongful death lawsuit in 2018, which was consolidated with a case brought by her sister-in-law against the city of El Cajon and Gonsalves in 2017.
The trial began last week in Judge Kenneth Medel’s courtroom in San Diego, where a jury of six men and six women – only one of whom is black – will decide if Gonsalves was negligent in shooting and killing Olango while responding to a call for mental health assistance.
The shooting catapulted the small east San Diego County city into the national discussion of police use of force on black people in America.
Members of Olango’s family have filed multiple lawsuits in state and federal court that have been dismissed.
Another lawsuit, filed by protesters and mourners who claim they were wrongfully arrested at the strip mall parking lot site of Olango’s death, is still making its way through federal court.
Since Olango’s death, San Diego’s former district attorney declined to file criminal charges against Gonsalves, finding the shooting was justified after a viral video was released showing that the moment before he was shot, Olango suddenly removed his hands from his pockets and took a “shooting stance,” while pointing a metal object at Gonsalves.
The metal object turned out to be an e-cigarette.
Olango’s sister had told dispatchers her brother was not armed and did not have access to a gun before he was encountered by Gonsalves. She witnessed her brother’s shooting death and claims in the lawsuit to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder because of it.
Rozier said Monday that even if she and Olango “were at odds,” he always stayed in consistent contact with their daughter and they would talk on the phone or video chat during the times Olango did not live close by, including when he lived in Arizona.
Olango lived with his wife and daughter off and on for years, with the family living separately at times when Olango was incarcerated. Olango moved in with Rozier when she had a medical condition in 2009 which caused temporary blindness due to a brain tumor.
Olango had been living in El Cajon for less than a year before his death, Rozier said, noting they “were on great terms” prior to the shooting.
Rozier said his death “devastated” her when questioned by her attorney Brian Dunn of The Cochran Firm California, based in Los Angeles.
“I’m not completely over it. There has been no time to grieve properly,” Rozier said.
She said the shooting “crushed” her daughter too.
“We’ve done a lot of therapy. It’s something I need to return to,” Rozier said.
The trial is expected to continue through the week.
Mitchell Dean of Solana Beach-based law firm Daley & Heft cross-examined Rozier during the trial Monday.