When the videos are played at normal speed, everything happens very quickly, and it can be very difficult for untrained viewers to interpret. FOX 5 asked a former El Cajon police officer, now turned criminal justice professor, to look at the videos and break them down frame by frame.
Kevin LaChapelle sat down with FOX 5 and looked through the cell phone and surveillance videos of the fatal shooting of Alfred Olango by El Cajon Policeon Sept. 27. He talked about the actions, commands and the tone of the officers leading up to the gunfire to give us a better idea of the events that may have taken place.
“Based on the video, I believe it was justified,” said former El Cajon Police Officer, Kevin LaChapelle.
LaChapelle has the perspective of a former law enforcement officer, but one who has publicly criticized fellow officers and their behavior in the past. He spoke about the erratic behavior of Olango, who is seen weaving back and forth, his hand in his pocket. But he also said that Officer Richard Gonsalves, who fired the fatal shot, was unnecessarily aggressive.
“Should I be telling people in a yelling voice? Should I be cussing at them? Or should I be trying to deescalate, talk calm,” LaChapelle said, referring to Gonsalves' behavior. “Now on the other hand, moving forward, I think that law enforcement agencies need to start really delving into the psychology of interacting with the public during crisis and what’s the tone that we should take. I think those are discussions that they need to look at the data and say, 'Hey look, when officers do this, what are the outcomes?' Now keep in mind, it’s hard to do that, because there are so many variables in every single scenario.”
The videos released Friday, show Officer Gonsalves firing four shots at Alfred Olango after Olango pulled a vape inhaler out of his pocket and pointed it at Gonsalves.
"When you arrive on a scene and someone has their hand in their pocket, it’s very unusual to see that. But when you see that, that’s very, very concerning for an officer,,” said LaChapelle.
Based on the videos, LaChapelle believes Officer Gonsalves was justified in pulling the trigger. However, he said, that will only be determined by the results of the investigation by El Cajon police and the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office. The District Attorney says no decision will be made on whether to file criminal charges against one or both officers until the investigation is complete. LaChapelle said that could take several months.
“I’m not afraid to be critical of police behavior. I’ve been critical in the past, and I’m not afraid to be at all, but in this particular case that’s what I really go to. With a reasonable officer, I would almost question if an officer didn’t do something, because to have something pointed at them like that," LaChapelle said. "This individual came out with it, into that position, of what is a typical position to fire a weapon. So it’s hard for me to see how anyone could think that that would make an officer not fear for their life."