Alfred Olango, who was identified by family members at the scene, was fatally shot at an El Cajon strip mall Tuesday afternoon, sparking bitter protests from members of the public who believe the man's race may have played a role.
About 50 people, many of them members of El Cajon's African-American community, assembled in front of the police station and began addressing reporters at 9 a.m. One of the speakers at Wednesday's protest said police had murdered Olango. Others said that Olango was clearly mentally ill and police should have used non-lethal means to take him into custody.
Christopher Rice-Wilson of Alliance San Diego said every death of a black man at the hands of police sends a message to the community to "stay in line." He attributed Olango's death to "three strikes" -- being black, being mentally ill and not following orders.
"Black lives matter. And if a black life doesn't matter, then no life matters," Rice-Wilson said.
Protesters characterized the shooting of Olango as being racially motivated.
Several witnesses said the officers were unduly quick to open fire and suggested their actions were influenced by the fact they were dealing with a black man, one they described as mentally challenged. One man told reporters the victim had suffered a seizure just prior to the shooting, and another said he had his hands raised at the moment the shots rang out.
“These senseless killings have to stop -- not just in El Cajon but in the entire country,'' community activist Estela De Los Rios said.
The protesters said they were frustrated that police held a news conference Tuesday night to brief reporters but did not meet with community members to answer their questions. They demanded that police release cellphone video taken by a witness to the shooting and vowed to continue their protest outside police headquarters until the police chief agreed to meet with them.
The events that led to the fatal shooting began about 2:10 p.m. Tuesday when officers were sent to investigate a report of a man behaving erratically and walking in traffic. They came into contact with the man behind a restaurant on Broadway near North Mollison Avenue and he refused multiple commands to remove his hand from his pocket, said El Cajon police Capt. Frank LaHaye.
“Because the subject did not comply, the officer drew his firearm and pointed it at the subject while continuing to give him instructions to remove his hand from his pocket,'' according to LaHaye.
The officers attempted to talk to the man while he paced back and forth, but he then “rapidly drew an object from his front pants pocket, placed both hands together and extended them rapidly toward the officer taking up what appeared to be a shooting stance,'' according to the lieutenant.
One officer fired his service weapon at the man several times and a second officer shot him with a Taser. Bystanders reported hearing about five shots. Olango later died at a hospital.
“That could be my little brother, that could be my twin sister at any time, and I don't know what to do,'' said Mallory Webb of the NAACP's Youth & College Division. “I'm scared to walk the streets every single day.''
Several hours after the shooting, El Cajon police made public a still photo lifted from video taken at the scene showing a man in a shooting stance, although no weapon was recovered at the scene. Some news agencies reported Olango may have been holding an electronic smoking device.
Protesters criticized the release of only one photo, instead of the entire video.
El Cajon Police Chief Jeff Davis told reporters at a news conference Tuesday night the two officers involved in the shooting, each with more than 20 years of service, will be placed on administrative leave for at least three days, as per protocol. He promised a thorough and transparent multi-agency investigation.
Some protesters Wednesday questioned why officers with special training to deal with the mentally ill were not dispatched. They also called for a federal law enforcement investigation into Olango's shooting.
Some purported witnesses also alleged that cell phones were confiscated from bystanders at the scene. LaHaye said no phones were taken other than one that was voluntarily turned over by an employee at a nearby restaurant.
"This was the only phone provided to officers in this investigation," LaHaye said. "No other phones were taken from witnesses."
Police officials also said via Twitter that no phones were confiscated from anyone at the scene and asked the public to "be careful about reacting to inaccurate information."
Despite that claim, the reports prompted a response from the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego & Imperial Counties. Its executive director, Norma Chavez-Peterson, noted that confiscating witnesses' phones violates the First and Fourth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
"The public has the right to film police in public places, and police officers may not confiscate or demand to view your digital photos or video without a warrant," Chavez-Peterson said in a statement. "Under no circumstances may police officers delete your photos or videos."
She said the agency would be "paying close attention as the details of this situation unfold."
The names of the two officers involved in the shooting haven't been released. They will be placed on a three-day administrative leave. The two have more than two decades of experience as police officers, Davis said.
"We all want the right thing to happen," Rock Church pastor Miles McPherson said Tuesday night. "We always want the truth to come out, but we want it to come out in a peaceful way."
Police asked that anyone with additional information contact them at 619-579-3311. Individuals with information on this incident who wish to remain anonymous can call the Crime Stoppers tip line at 888-580-8477.