A Police Shooting: The Death Of Alfred Olango
Wednesday, September 27, 2017
Photo by El Cajon Police Department
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On the one-year anniversary of the shooting death of Alfred Olango, members of his family are renewing their calls for justice.
In an event planned to be held in front of El Cajon City Hall Wednesday, members of the Olango family, their attorneys and Reverend Shane Harris, president of the San Diego Chapter of the National Action Network, are calling for the creation of a citizens review board on police practices for El Cajon and for California Attorney General Javier Becerra to investigate Olango's death. The group is also demanding El Cajon Police Chief Jeff Davis fire Richard Gonsalves, the police officer who shot Alfred Olango.
Sept. 27, 2016
“He was going into crisis. He had a mental breakdown, complete mental breakdown.” That is how Lucy Olango described her brother, Alfred. She said his breakdown happened soon after his close friend committed suicide on Sept. 23, 2016.
On Sept. 27, 2016, Lucy Olango called the police, saying her brother was not acting like himself. She asked for psychological assistance. Licensed mental health clinicians who work with police were not available to respond, but officers found Alfred Olango about an hour later in a taco shop parking lot.
Alfred Olango, distraught and unarmed, was shot four times by El Cajon police officer Richard Gonsalves after Olango pulled an object out of his pants pocket and gestured towards Gonzalves and another officer who was armed with a Taser. The object in Olango's hand was later determined to be an electronic cigarette.
Police initially did not release the video of the shooting, showing only a still image of Olango in what they described as a shooting stance. But the next day, El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells described what he saw on the tape.
"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," Wells said.
Protests began on a Tuesday, the day Olango was killed, and continued throughout the week. At first, they were largely peaceful. But by Thursday, there were eruptions of violence. Police used pepper-spray balls to break up protestors blocking intersections in El Cajon. Some protesters threw bottles at police. The unrest prompted law enforcement to release the video the next day.
San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis eventually cleared Gonsalves in January, ruling the shooting was justified.
"We've determined the officer's use of deadly force was reasonable under the circumstances and he bears no criminal responsibility for his actions," Dumanis said.
There are three pending civil lawsuits filed by various Olango family members scheduled to go to trial as early as 2018.
Looking Back, And Forward
On Wednesday, Midday Edition will broadcast from in front of the El Cajon City Hall. The special broadcast will explore the tragedy that left one man dead, sparked days of protest around San Diego and raised many still unanswered questions.
During the broadcast, we will hear from Alfred Olango's sister, Lucy Olango, and his brother, Apollo Olango, Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, Pastor Rolland Slade and from members of the community remembering the shooting and what came after. KPBS requested interviews with El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells and El Cajon Police Chief Jeff Davis, but they declined the invitation citing pending lawsuits. KPBS also invited a representative from the El Cajon police officer's association, but they also declined.
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