Videos Released By El Cajon Police Show Fatal Shooting Of Alfred Olango
Friday, September 30, 2016
Rolland Slade, pastor, Meridian Baptist Church
Shane Harris, San Diego chapter president, National Action Network
UPDATE: 8:10 p.m., Sept. 30, 2016
About 150 to 200 protesters are gathered in El Cajon Friday night. The protests have been largely peaceful so far.
Some protesters participated in a prayer circle, while others chanted "touch one, touch all."
Reporter Erik Anderson is on the scene and will post updates on his Twitter feed.
UPDATE: 5:41 p.m., Sept. 30, 2016
An attorney representing the Olango family disputes claims made in an El Cajon Police Department press briefing about the shooting death of 38-year-old Alfred Olango. Police Chief Jeff Davis told reporters Friday his department offered to let family members of Olango view surveillance and cell phone video of the incident, but they declined to watch.
The attorney, Dan Gilleon, said the family did not turn down the meeting but, rather, needed more time to get to the meeting. Gilleon said the family was not informed the video would be released to the media.
Gilleon called one of the officer's shown in the video "a cowboy with his gun drawn provoking a mentally disturbed person" into reacting, according to the Associated Press.
UPDATE: 3:31 p.m., Sept. 30, 2016
El Cajon Police Chief Jeff Davis said the decision to release the video was unanimous among city and county leaders, including San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis.
"We believe it is essential to provide the community with as much information as possible at this point," Davis said.
He said the release was intended to counter "misinformation" that was being spread by people who haven't been identified as witnesses. He says the misinformation was "misleading and had the potential'' to spark unrest.
The chief showed two videos, beginning with surveillance footage from a nearby drive-thru restaurant that shows an officer's vehicle arriving on scene Tuesday afternoon.
In later footage from the same source, which did not have audio, Alfred Olango is seen walking backward as Officer Richard Gonsalves follows him. He turns around and continues walking away, then faces Gonsalves before walking toward a parked truck. Olango seems to pace back and forth as a second officer, identified as Officer Josh McDaniel, arrives and exits his vehicle. Gonsalves stops in front of Olango facing him, blocking him from the camera's view. Olango appears to abruptly step to the side then falls to the ground, after he is presumably fired upon by Gonsalves. Authorities have said at that time, McDaniel also deployed his Taser.
Davis also showed a witness video from a similar angle that was filmed on a cell phone and included audio.
The video shows the seconds before Olango is killed. Gonsalves's position blocks a direct view of Olango, but soon after the video begins, four shots can be heard, followed by screams from nearby witnesses.
Davis said family members were contacted this morning regarding the release, but they declined to watch the footage.
A Psychiatric Emergency Response Team member, who often accompanies law enforcement officers on mental health disturbance calls, was not available at the time, Davis said.
The team was en route after leaving another call but didn't arrive at the scene in time, he added.
UPDATE: 2:44 p.m., Sept. 30, 2016
After a late start, law enforcement authorities and elected officials addressed media awaiting the release of footage that shows the deadly shooting of Alfred Olango.
NAACP San Diego President Andre Branch commended authorities for reversing their stance to not release the video.
"Full disclosure to the public builds trust and it demonstrates respect," Branch said. "So we are quite pleased that Chief Davis has decided to take this action."
Ahead of the video's showing, United African American Ministerial Action Council Reverend Gerald W. Brown urged the community to "move forward in peace."
"It's OK to protest but we want folks to protest in peace," Brown said. We want to make sure that everyone is safe, everyone gets home. We want to make sure that the officers are safe as well."
UPDATE: 2:33 p.m., Sept. 30, 2016
On its website, Downtown El Cajon Business Partners advises businesses to close early due to upcoming release of video:
"No one has any idea of what may happen next. After conferring with the City of El Cajon I am recommending that all businesses in the District close early today, at 2:00 pm, and stay closed until Sunday."
UPDATE: 2:14 p.m., Sept. 30, 2016
Community members and news reporters have gathered outside the El Cajon Police Department awaiting the start of a news conference where officials are expected to release video of the shooting.
According to an advisory from the San Diego County Sheriff's Department, "national media with current, valid credentials and local media with current media badges from the San Diego Police Department" are permitted inside.
The conference was scheduled to start at 2 p.m.
UPDATE: 12:45 p.m., Sept. 30, 2016
El Cajon police will release witness video of the fatal police shooting of Ugandan immigrant Alfred Olango Friday afternoon, according to law enforcement officials. Copies of the footage showing an officer opening fire on Olango at a strip mall near Parkway Plaza will be distributed during a 2 p.m. news conference at El Cajon police headquarters, authorities say.
East County religious leaders prayed for peace and unity in the city of El Cajon this morning following a spate of increasingly raucous protests over the fatal police shooting of an unarmed Ugandan immigrant earlier this week.
Pastors from various churches attended the prayer meeting outside El Cajon Police Department headquarters, where some demonstrations had been held following the death of 38-year-old Alfred Olango on Tuesday, which critics maintain was unwarranted and racially motivated.
Rev. Rolland Slade of Meridian Baptist Church in El Cajon called for transparency, transformation and kindness in a nation that has "seen division and separation long enough."
"The events of Tuesday, Sept. 27 were tragic and they must be acknowledged," he said. "We, lord, the region, the community, the neighborhood, the family of Alfred Olango, have been dramatically changed."
Olango's death sparked widespread and nearly immediate protests.
A demonstration at the strip mall near the intersection of Interstate 8 and state Route 67 — where Olango was mortally wounded during a confrontation with officers — turned violent Thursday night. Protesters stopped vehicles, broke car windows and knocked a rider off his motorcycle, according to El Cajon police.
Officers from a multi-agency platoon arrested two men on suspicion of participating in an unlawful assembly and used pepper balls to disperse a crowd of 50 to 75 people, some of whom threw glass bottles at officers, authorities said.
Earlier Thursday, supporters of Olango decried the killing and vowed to fight for justice.
"We do believe that Alfred Olango was unjustly killed," the Rev. Shane Harris, president of the National Action Network-San Diego, said during a news conference at the civil rights organization's Midway-area offices. "We do believe that the officer who shot him five times did this with misconduct, and that is why we are here today."
A witness told reporters that Olango had his hands raised when shot, and another indicated he may have had a seizure.
Police officials countered that Olango was uncooperative, repeatedly refused to remove his hand from his pocket, assumed "what appeared to be a shooting stance" and pointed an object at an officer that turned out to be an electronic smoking device.
The events that led to the fatal confrontation began when officers were dispatched to investigate a report of a pedestrian behaving erratically and walking in traffic in a commercial district a few blocks north of El Cajon Valley High School.
Patrol personnel contacted Olango and moments later, one of the responding officers fired his service weapon while the other deployed an electronic stun gun. According to news reports, it took officers 50 minutes to respond to the initial call.
Olango's mother, Pamela Benge, said her son was distraught at the time of the shooting due to the death of a close friend, disputing reports that he was mentally ill.
"He was not mental — he had a mental breakdown," she said.
Benge tearfully praised Olango as a decent person who simply needed help at the time of the deadly confrontation with police.
"My son (was) a good, loving young man, only 38 years old," she said. "I wanted his future to be longer than that. I wanted him to enjoy his daughter."
The grieving mother noted that her family had come to the United States 25 years ago to escape armed conflict in their homeland.
"We have come from a war zone," she said. "We wanted protection. That's why we're here. ... There are millions of refugees that are here, just searching for a better place. ... I thought a lovely nice country like this would protect us. We just need protection, that's all."
During a news conference Wednesday, El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells said he was "completely fine" with peaceful dissent but was concerned about the potential for violence.
"I see what's happening all over the country," Wells said. "Of course I'm worried. ... I don't expect anything bad to happen, but I certainly don't want to be caught unaware."
Hours after the shooting, police made public a still photo lifted from witness video that showed a crouching man holding something at face level as two officers apparently trained weapons on him. Protesters decried the release of just one photo instead of the entire video.
Wells said he had seen the full footage and was deeply affected by it but was holding off on any judgments.
"I saw a man who was distraught, a man who was acting in ways that looked like he was in great pain," Wells said. "And I saw him get gunned down and killed, and it broke my heart."
The officers, each of whom has more than 20 years of law enforcement experience, were placed on administrative leave, as per protocol. Officials promised a thorough and transparent investigation, but protesters demanded an investigation at the federal level.
San Diego attorney Dan Gilleon, who has been advising Olango's family, identified the patrolman who fired the fatal shots as Richard Gonsalves, who was demoted last year for making unwanted sexual advances toward a female subordinate.
Olango was born in Kampala, Uganda, one of nine children. His mother and siblings immigrated to New York as refugees in 1991, apparently because his father — who worked for the late Ugandan President Idi Amin — made threats of violence against them.
The family eventually moved to Southern California, and Olango attended San Diego High School for a time before dropping out, though he later earned a GED. According to his Facebook page, he attended San Diego Mesa College and worked at a Hooters restaurant.
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