By Patrick Fallon
EL CAJON, Calif. (Reuters) – Authorities on Friday released videos of police shooting an unarmed black man dead in El Cajon, California, but the grainy images, much of them without sound, were not likely to immediately pacify community outrage over the incident.
Police and prosecutors said an investigation was still ongoing into the fatal shooting on Tuesday of Ugandan-born Alfred Olango, 38, and that no decision had been made on whether to file charges against the officers involved.
“This is as difficult a situation as any law enforcement officer will ever encounter and its one we never seek,” El Cajon Police Chief Jeff Davis said at a news conference. “That being the case, a tragic event took place that took a life and had a major impact on our community.”Videotape of the incident comes from two sources: A camera mounted at the drive-thru window of the Los Ponchos taco near where the shooting took place and the cell phone of a bystander.
Both tapes show the two officers confronting Olango in the parking lot of the restaurant before opening fire, one with a gun and the other with a Taser. In the bystander’s tape, a woman can be shouting: “Officer don’t shoot him!” before at least four shots ring out and she screams.
Olango’s actions in the moments before he is shot are difficult to make out, in part because he is obscured at times by an officer.
Family members and activists have called for several days for police to release the video, believing it would show that officers acted improperly. Olango’s mother, during an emotional press conference on Thursday, said that her son was having a mental breakdown and that officers should have helped him instead of quickly opening fire.
The tragedy has gained attention in Africa, where officials from several countries criticized Olango’s death and the succession of police killings of black men in the United States.
The shooting has also led to protests in El Cajon, a suburb of San Diego, where on Thursday night police used pepper spray to disperse the crowd and arrested two men for unlawful assembly.
Attorneys for Olango’s family had criticized authorities for previously releasing a still photograph of Olango pointing an object at an officer, saying it gave an unfair impression of the former Ugandan refugee, and called for the public release of the video.
El Cajon officer Richard Gonsalves and Josh McDaniel, both 21-year veterans, were responding to emergency calls about a “mentally unstable” man walking in traffic, officials said.
Police have said Olango ignored commands to take his hand out of his pocket before pulling out an object later determined to be a vaping device used to inhale nicotine. Olango assumed a “shooting stance” and pointed the object, which had a 3-inch-long (8-cm) cylinder, police said. No gun was found.
Gonsalves opened fire and McDaniel discharged a Taser device, police said. Police have not said how many shots were fired. A family spokesman said Olango was shot five times.
The officers have been placed on administrative leave during an investigation into the shooting.
(Reporting by Patrick Fallon in El Cajon, Ben Klayman in Detroit and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Lisa Shumaker)