Manuel Diaz's mom condemns Anaheim violence in protests against fatal police shootings

Genevieve Huizar, third from left, the mother of Manuel Diaz, who was shot to death by Anaheim police, breaks down after a news conference in Santa Ana, Calif., July 25, 2012. AP Photo

(CBS/AP) ANAHEIM, Calif. - Police maintained a heavy presence on the streets of Anaheim to guard against further violent protests in the wake of the fatal shooting of an unarmed man by officers.

The mother of Manuel Diaz condemned the unrest that has roiled the city, saying she did not want them to become her son's legacy.

"I watched as my son took his last breath. I watched as his heart stopped beating for the last time," Genevieve Huizar said Wednesday, breaking into sobs. "Please, please, please stop the violence. It's not going to bring my son back, and this is the worst thing any mother could go through."

Diaz's family sued the city and the police department on Tuesday, claiming he was shot and killed Saturday while running away, lawyer James Rumm said. The family is seeking $50 million in damages.

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Her news conference followed a night of protests where as many as 600 demonstrators surged through downtown, smashing shop windows, setting trash fires and hurling rocks and bottles at riot-clad officers who used batons, pepper balls and beanbag rounds.

Twenty-four people, including four minors, were arrested on suspicion of crimes ranging from failure to disperse to assault with a deadly weapon, Police Chief John Welter said.

The violence downtown left 20 stores with shattered windows, authorities said

Mayor Tom Tait also appealed for calm and said the U.S. attorney's office had agreed to review two officer-involved shootings over the weekend — including the one that left Diaz dead — and that he planned to meet with members of that office and the FBI on Friday.

"We will have a clear and complete understanding of these incidents" followed by a public dialogue on what actions should be taken, Tait said at a news conference.

Police were out in force Wednesday night and there were no immediate reports of problems.

As CBS Los Angeles station KCAL/KCBS-TV reports, the problems may shift from the street to cyberspace. The politically motivated "hacktivist" group Anonymous urged its followers to retaliate against the police department.

Police said Diaz was shot Saturday after two officers approached three men who were acting suspiciously in an alley before running away. One officer chased Diaz to the front of an apartment complex.

The second shooting occurred Sunday when officers spotted a suspected gang member in a stolen sport utility vehicle. After a brief pursuit, police said 21-year-old Joel Mathew Acevedo fired at an officer who returned fire and killed him.

The back-to-back deaths were the fourth and fifth fatal police shooting in this Orange County city this year

The shootings and resulting demonstrations marred the image of the Orange County city, which is home to Disneyland and the Angels baseball team but also has neighborhoods teeming with gritty apartments.

Like much of California, the city of more than 330,000 has changed significantly since Disneyland put it on the map in 1955. With its growth spurt, the once mostly white population is now more than 50 percent Hispanic and there's a sense of disenfranchisement from some in the Latino community.

The lawyer for Diaz's family said Hispanics feel they are disproportionately singled out by police and instinctively avoid police.

"White kids in a rich white neighborhood don't get rousted by police and when they do, they don't have to fear the police. But that's not true with brown kids in a poor neighborhood," said Dana Douglas, the attorney.

"Frankly, when it's brown kids in a poor area just standing there having a conversation, it's considered suspicious."

Police Sgt. Bob Dunn did not return messages seeking comment on Douglas' comments.

Police would not say what led the officer to shoot Diaz. But Welter said Diaz failed to heed orders to stop and threw something on the roof of the complex that contained what officers believe was heroin. Both officers were placed on paid leave pending an investigation.

Diaz's family sued the city and the police department on Tuesday, claiming he was shot and killed while running away, lawyer James Rumm said. The family is seeking $50 million in damages.

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