Protesters shouted “murder” on Wednesday and demanded a federal investigation into the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black man in Southern California, just as racially charged anger over two similar incidents in the past two weeks had begun to ease.
Tuesday’s mid-afternoon shooting unfolded after two officers responded to several calls about a mentally unstable person walking in traffic and confronted the man behind a restaurant in the San Diego suburb of El Cajon, according to police.
One policeman opened fire with his service pistol and his partner simultaneously fired a Taser stun gun when the man pulled an object from his pocket and took aim at them in a “shooting stance,” according to police.
No weapon from the man, however, was recovered at the scene, police said. The object he was said to be carrying was not specified.
Activists and friends later identified the victim as Ugandan-born Alfred Olango, which Mayor Bill Wells confirmed on Wednesday. Friends and supporters said Olango, 38, according to court records, was mentally ill and may have been suffering a seizure in the moments before his death.
Police said they obtained cellphone video of the shooting from a bystander, but authorities released only a still frame showing two officers pointing weapons at a man who was aiming an object at them.
In a separate video clip taken moments after the shooting and posted on social media, a woman who refers to herself as the victim’s sister is heard crying in anguish, “Oh my God. You killed my brother. I just called for help and … you killed him.”
Wells told a news conference that he had seen the footage obtained by police. He described it as “certainly enlightening,” adding, “I don’t believe that this is going to be a tremendously complicated process for people to figure out what happened.”
“I saw a man who was distraught, a man who was acting in ways that looked like he was in great pain, and I saw him get gunned down and killed, and it broke my heart. If it was my son I would be devastated,” Wells said.
Wells said all 120 officers on El Cajon’s police force receive training from San Diego County’s Psychiatric Emergency Response Teams, or PERT, program, though no PERT-assigned officer was available for dispatch to Tuesday’s call.
CRIES FOR ‘JUSTICE’
The shooting came days after two black men were killed by police in questionable circumstances in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Tulsa, Oklahoma, igniting demonstrations decrying racial bias by U.S. law enforcement. Authorities imposed a state of emergency and a curfew to quell unrest in Charlotte.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, El Cajon Police Chief Jeff Davis appealed for calm. The predominantly white city is home to some 100,000 people, including many residents who are immigrants from the Middle East and Africa.
“I implore the community to be patient with us, work with us, look at the facts at hand before making any judgment,” he said.
Civil rights activists and several hundred protesters gathered outside the police department during the day, chanting “murder,” “justice for Alfred Olango” and “black lives matter.”
“We are not going to stop until we get justice,” the Reverend Shane Harris, president of the National Action Network’s San Diego chapter, said at the demonstration. “We do not trust local prosecutors to investigate local police.”
Protests continued after dark with hundreds of people marching from the shooting scene to City Hall – about a mile and a half away – and back again, shouting Olango’s name, taunting police and occasionally disrupting traffic.
The crowd later staged a boisterous but peaceful rally near the site of Olango’s death that turned tense when police officers, who initially kept a low profile, made a renewed show of force.
Federal court records show that Olango had a troubled past, fleeing to the United States from Uganda as a child with his family in 1991 because the then-president of the East African country had threatened to kill them.
According to court documents, Olango was granted permanent U.S. residency but lost that status in 2001 after being convicted of drug charges. He later pleaded guilty to a separate weapons offense and was sentenced to three years in prison.
As of 2006, records showed, a deportation order against him was pending.
Wells said it would be up to county prosecutors who are investigating the shooting to release video as they see fit. He said the FBI also was probing the incident.
(Additional reporting by Norma Galeana and Alan Devall in El Cajon, Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles, Laila Kearney in New York and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky, Jeffrey Benkoe and Bernard Orr)