As El Cajon Shooting Goes National, L.A. Civil Rights Leaders Call for Justice
UPDATE at 3:53 p.m. Friday, Sept. 30, 2016: Police today released two video clips of the shooting. See them below. First posted at 8 a.m. Friday, Sept. 30, 2016.
Los Angeles civil rights leaders this week called on Laura E. Duffy, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California, to conduct a "fast-track" investigation into Tuesday's fatal shooting of a black man, Alfred Olango, by police in El Cajon, an eastern suburb of San Diego.
The 38-year-old immigrant from Uganda was captured on video holding what police said was a vaporizer. He assumed a "shooting stance" as he faced officers who were telling him to drop the object, El Cajon police chief Jeff Davis told reporters. At least one cop opened fire, Davis said. Another officer "discharged" a Taser at about the same time, he said. The deadly encounter added to a list of shootings of unarmed black men that helped spark the born-in-L.A. Black Lives Matter movement, which was in effect as protesters took to the streets of El Cajon this week.
In a statement, Earl Ofari Hutchinson's Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable said, "Olango was unarmed, had severe mental and physical challenges, and was in need of help."
The organization was joined by representatives of L.A. Black Employees for Fairness, the National Council of Negro Women, the Black Ministerial Alliance, the Youth Advocacy Coalition, Founder Voice of the People, Cease Fire and Project Cry No More in urging the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Diego to "conduct a fast-track probe in the killing to determine whether officers used excessive force, violated department policies and procedures on the use of excessive force, and determine if civil rights charges should be filed against the officers," according to the Roundtable.
San Diego's FBI special agent in charge, Eric S. Birnbaum, said the bureau was prepared to dig into the controversial case when the time is right. This appears to contradict El Cajon mayor Bill Wells, who reportedly said the FBI was already on board.
"We are aware of the incident involving the death of Alfred Olango and are in regular contact with local authorities," Birnbaum said in a statement. "If, in the course of the local investigation, information comes to light of a potential federal civil rights violation, the Justice Department and FBI are prepared to investigate."
Chief Davis said police were called to check out Olango, apparently "walking in traffic," because someone reported he was "not acting like himself." This was about 2:11 p.m. Tuesday in the 800 block of Broadway, his department said in a statement.
He said the man "rapidly drew" the vaporizer from a front pants pocket as officers trained their weapons on him. The top cop also attempted to quash rumors that police at the scene of the shooting confiscated onlookers' cellphones in a search for video of the tragedy.
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A witness "voluntarily provided video" by turning in his smartphone, Davis said. The witness even gave cops the lock screen code to make their jobs easier, he said.
Critics are still unhappy with El Cajon police. Olango's mental disposition should have inspired different tactics, they say. The criticism, in fact, forced the department to reveal that while it has Psychiatric Emergency Response Team clinicians in the field with officers, they were "on a different radio call" at the time of the Olango shooting.
UPDATE at 3:53 p.m. Friday, Sept. 30, 2016: At the urging of regional officials and civil rights leaders, El Cajon police this afternoon released two video clips of the shooting, one from a bystander's smartphone and other from a drive-thru security camera.
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