Police in El Cajon, Calif., release video of unarmed man's fatal shooting

EL CAJON, Calif. -- Videos of the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black man in a San Diego suburb were released to the public Friday.

The release comes after protesters and the family of Alfred Olango demanded to see a bystander’s full cellphone video from which a single frame had been released showing the man in what was described as a “shooting stance.” A lawyer for Olango’s family said the single frame was selectively misleading to support the police version of events.

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Screengrab of video released by El Cajon Police Sept. 30 showing the fatal shooting of Alfred Olango  

El Cajon police

Olango, 38, was killed Tuesday by an officer who was responding to reports that a mentally unstable man was walking in traffic and behaving erratically. El Cajon police released surveillance video from the drive-thru window of a nearby taco shop and cell phone video taken by a witness. El Cajon police aren’t equipped with body cameras, and a police chief said police cars are equipped with dashcam video, but it didn’t capture the shooting.

The video played at a press conference Friday showed Olango walking erratically before being approached by two officers. It’s difficult to make out the position of his hands when an officer fires. Olango is seen falling to the ground.

El Cajon Police Chief Jeff Davis said city leaders agreed to release the full video in the spirit of transparency and because of public safety concerns, saying protests had become increasingly violent over the last few days. 

“We hope that any demonstrations will remain peaceful,” Davis said. “That was the intention of releasing this video and we really emphasize our desire for peace and calm.”

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Officers confront man in El Cajon, California on September 27, 2016

KFMB-TV/El Cajon police

Davis said dispatchers did relay to the officers that the person who called 911 said Olango was in distress and did not have a weapon. He said a member of a psychiatric emergency response team, clinicians trained to work with law enforcement responding to calls that may involve mentally disturbed individuals, was on another call.

Olango had not obeyed an order to remove a hand from his pants pocket and was fatally shot after he quickly drew an object from the pocket and pointed it at an officer in a “shooting stance,” police have said. The object was an e-cigarette device.  

The framegrab of the bystander’s video showed Olango’s hands together outstretched at chest level and aiming at an officer.  

“This is as difficult a situation as any law enforcement officer will ever encounter, and it’s never one we seek,” Davis said. “A tragic event occurred that took a life and had a major impact on our community.”

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Image of the vaporizing device police say Alfred Olango pointed at them before he was fatally shot in El Cajon, Calif.

El Cajon police

Police also released an image of the vape pen police say Olango pointed at officers.

Police said no other videos of the shooting existed that they knew of, and asked for anyone else with video evidence to come forward.

Davis said Olango’s family was notified that the video would be released Friday but decided not to be present at Friday’s press conference. He said city leaders made an effort to contact the family, but that they had not yet seen the video.

Davis identified the officer who fired the fatal shot as Richard Gonsalves,  a 21-year veteran of the force. The other officer who responded, Josh McDaniel, also a 21-year veteran, deployed his Taser, Davis said.

The killing led to three nights of angry and, at times, violent protests.

El Cajon’s mayor had defended the decision to release the single frame, saying he had seen the entire video and it accurately represented the situation the two officers faced.

Mayor Bill Wells said he reached the decision to release the image with the police chief and District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis to counter reports from people saying Olango had his hands in the air and was begging not to be shot.

“I thought it was way too incendiary to not release something,” Wells said.

Wells said he met with leaders of the black community Thursday who told him releasing the video immediately could help prevent violence. Wells said then that he wanted to talk to Dumanis to discuss why the video should not be released immediately.

Ministers on Friday prayed for healing, unity and peace in the community after nights of chaotic protest.

“We pray to you to thwart those who would bring unrest, chaos and damage to our city and our county, to those who would try to use this tragedy for their own purpose,” the Rev. Dave Hoffman said. “We pray for those who loved Alfred Olango who have lost a father, a loved one, a friend, that your peace and comfort would fall upon them.”

In another video of the incident’s aftermath, taken by an eyewitness and uploaded to YouTube, Olango’s distraught sister says her brother is sick and she called police to help him, not to kill him.

Olango’s anguished mother said her son was a good, joyful man who suffered a “mental breakdown” over the recent death of his best friend and needed compassion when police encountered him. Pamela Benge said her family had escaped strife-torn Uganda to come to the U.S. for safety as a refugee and she asked why police didn’t just shock her son with a stun gun or shoot him in the leg.

Protests Thursday night were more violent and destructive than gatherings the previous two nights.

Between 50 and 75 people marched through streets and blocked intersections. Some got into fights with drivers angry over blocked traffic, at times breaking car windows and in one case pushing a man off his motorcycle, police said. Some threw bottles at police.

Police used pepper-spray balls to break up the crowd and two men were arrested for failing to end an unlawful assembly.

The fatal shooting happened less than two weeks after black men were shot and killed by police in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Charlotte, North Carolina, where violent protests broke out.

Police in both those cities have released videos of the shootings.