Sunday, October 02, 2016

El Cajon Protests Continue After Release of Police Shooting Video
Raw video of Alfred Olango officer involved shooting released by the El Cajon Police Department.

Pauline Repard
Los Angeles

Three days after an El Cajon police officer fatally shot an unarmed black man, authorities released video of the incident his family and protesters have demanded to see.

A protest far more peaceful than Thursday night followed the release of the footage.

The two videos, lasting less than 90 seconds total, show the moments on Tuesday before and when an officer fired his gun and a second officer fired a Taser at Alfred Olango, 38.

On the video with sound, four gun shots are heard, followed by a woman’s screams.

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The recordings last only a few seconds after the shooting. One recording was surveillance video from a nearby business, the other was taken on cellphone by a witness.

El Cajon Police Chief Jeff Davis, backed by Mayor Bill Wells, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and others, held a news conference on Friday to distribute copies of the video to reporters.

Davis identified Officer Richard Gonsalves as the officer who shot Olango and Officer Josh McDaniel as the officer who fired a Taser. Both have been on the department for 21 years.

The chief said he sat in on a conference call Friday morning with Wells, Dumanis, Sheriff Bill Gore, San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman and Escondido police Chief Craig Carter. All agreed to release of the video in the interest of public safety, he said.

He added that misinformation was spreading through the community “with the potential to create unrest” in the city.

“We didn’t want to waste time,” he said. “At the end of the day, it was important to put this out to the community.”

Davis said nights of “escalating aggression” and the effects of protests in the city, including closed stores and schools, led to the decision to allow the public to see the videos.

Dumanis said she agreed with the release of the footage, adding that the video is only one piece of evidence her office will review in deciding whether the shooting was legally justified.

She said the FBI has been involved in the investigation into the shooting.

Dr. Andre Branch, president of the NAACP San Diego, also at the conference, agreed that the video needed to be shown.

“I applaud and commend Chief Jeff Davis and the city of El Cajon for releasing the video of the police-involved shooting. NAACP believes this is the action that should follow any and all police shootings.”

Olango’s family were not present at the conference.

The videos were shown live over local news stations. About a dozen people collected outside police headquarters during the news conference watched the videos on their cellphones and reacted with anger as they heard the shots ring out.

Some honked car horns, others shouted profanities, and one man yelled, “They trapped him like an animal!”

Some hours later, people began gathering at the site of the deadly altercation, where a makeshift memorial continues to grow. People have set more than 50 candles and several photos of Olango under a tree.

By 8 p.m., a crowd of about 200 protesters turned out, many of whom pushed TV news cameras and reporters away.

A few feet away about a dozen people formed a circle, praying and singing gospel songs.

The 200 or so protesters marched though the streets for nearly two hours, at times blocking intersections as they chanted, “No justice, no peace.” Officers and sheriff’s deputies in riot gear obstructed some streets and freeway ramps.

In contrast to the previous night, there were not reports of violence, vandalism or arrests.

The city went through three nights of street protests and marches that became increasingly violent. Thursday night, five men were arrested, one on suspicion of hitting a San Diego police officer with a brick. Law officers from several local agencies used tear gas and pepperball rounds to disperse a crowd that jumped onto cars, smashed some vehicle windows and hurled rocks and bottles at officers and sheriff’s deputies.

Demonstrators claimed Olango was shot because he was black. They called for release of the cellphone video recorded by a witness who gave her phone to police to view.

Police instead released a still frame from the video, showing Olango aiming an object at officers, one apparently only several feet away.

The object turned out to be a vaping device with a short cylinder that could resemble a small gun barrel. Davis displayed a similar device at the news conference.

The incident began when Olango’s sister and members of the public called 911 several times on Tuesday to report that Olango was behaving strangely. His sister told police he wasn’t “acting like himself” and there reports he was getting into traffic at Broadway and Mollison Avenue, police said.

Officers got there about 2:10 p.m. A Los Angeles attorney who has been advising Olango’s mother and other family said Thursday that the officers fired at Olango a minute later.

On Thursday, Rev. Shane Harris, president of National Action Network San Diego, a civil-rights organization, said he believed the officer is guilty of misconduct.

“The country is begging for a video,” Harris said at a news conference with Olango’s mother, Pamela Benge, and daughter, Charé Rozier.

Though word spread through the community that Olango was mentally ill, his mother said that was not true. She said he was distraught over the recent death of his best friend.

One of the two videos released Friday came from a security camera at Los Panchos taco shop drive-through on Broadway. There is no audio.

In one minute and six seconds, it shows Olango on foot in a parking area, backing away from an officer, identified by the police chief as Gonsalves. The two move around, at times closer or further away from each other as Olango backs up alongside a white pickup.

McDaniel drives into the picture in a patrol car and gets out, drawing his Taser as he walks to the back of the pickup.

Both officers’ weapons are aimed at Olango, who then falls to the ground. His sister is seen entering the picture a few seconds before he is shot.

The witnesses’ cellphone video lasts 16 seconds and comes with sound. It,too, shows the officers nearing Olango with weapons drawn. His sister approaches before the gun shots are fired, and her high-pitched scream is heard.

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