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Unarmed man shot by police in SoCal was "mentally sick," sister says in video

Last Updated Sep 28, 2016 8:02 PM EDT

EL CAJON, Calif. -- A woman who says she is the sister of an unarmed suburban San Diego man fatally shot by police at a strip mall can be heard in a witness video depicting the scene’s aftermath saying the man was “mentally sick.”

“I called for help, I didn’t call for you guys to kill him,” the sister is heard yelling in the witness video as she cries.

In the video, taken by an unidentified witness and uploaded to YouTube, the sister says she called police three times asking for help for her brother. The distraught woman is heard saying she should have called the crisis communication team instead of the police.

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

KFMB-TV/El Cajon police

“Don’t you guys have crisis communication team to talk to somebody mentally sick?” she says.

Later, she is heard saying, “Why couldn’t you guys Tase him? I told you he’s sick!” and “Oh my god, you killed my brother!”

Police said they were called to the mall shortly after 2 p.m. by the sister of a man in his 30s who said he was “not acting like himself” and walking in traffic. Police also received other reports of a man acting erratically. They say the man refused “multiple” orders to take his hand from his pocket. He  was shot and killed by police after pulling an object from his pocket, pointing it at officers and assuming a “shooting stance,” authorities said.

One of the officers tried and failed to subdue the unidentified man with a stun gun before the other officer fired several times, El Cajon Police Chief Jeff Davis said at a late night news conference. Davis would not say what the object was, but acknowledged it was not a weapon.

Friends told the San Diego Union Tirbune he was mentally ill and had a mental breakdown that caused him to act out in the minutes leading up to the shooting. One man angrily told reporters the victim was suffering a seizure before the incident.

A San Diego community website describes a “Psychiatric Emergency Response Team” that pairs mental health professionals with law enforcement officers in the field.

“The PERT team evaluates the situation, assesses the individual’s mental health condition and needs, and, if appropriate, transports individual to a hospital or other treatment center, or referees him/her to a community-based resource or treatment facility,” the website says.

According to the description, the team serves all areas in San Diego county, including the El Cajon Police Department. An El Cajon Police spokesman didn’t respond Wednesday to Crimesider’s inquiry about whether the team was called.

Before police announced the death, dozens of protesters gathered at the shooting scene, with some claiming the man was shot with his hands raised. Police disputed that and produced a frame from cellphone video taken by a witness that appeared to show the man in the “shooting stance” as two officers approached with weapons drawn.

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

The El Cajon protest was angry but peaceful. Several dozen people, most of them black, gathered and some cursed at officers guarding the scene. They chanted “black lives matter!” and “hands up, don’t shoot!”

Davis urged the community to remain calm and said the investigation will be thorough.

“This will be transparent,” he said. “This will be looked at by multiple sets of eyes, and not just ours.”

The district attorney was on scene and also will investigate.

On Wednesday, protesters again gathered, this time outside the police station. They called on police to release the full video and 911 calls, and demanded an independent investigation.

The Rev. Shane Harris said the man’s sister had called 911 and made clear to dispatchers he had mental issues.

“There were real issues with his mental health and that was part of the conversation,” Harris said in an interview with the AP.

When detectives arrived police say a female witness came forward and voluntarily provided cellphone video of the incident. Authorities did not release the video, only the single frame from it. El Cajon officers do not wear body cameras.

Meantime, other videos quickly surfaced showing the aftermath. In the witness video posted to YouTube, an unidentified woman is heard telling police at the scene that the man was ordered to take his hand out of his pocket.

“I said: ‘Take your hand out your pocket, baby, or they’re going to shoot you.’ He said ‘no, no, no,’ “ the woman said. “When he lifted his hand out ... he did have something in his hand but it wasn’t no gun, and that’s when they shot him.”

Another woman is heard saying the police weren’t giving information to the sister about her brother’s condition.

“None of them have said anything to her as far as some kind of compassion or anything,” the woman says. “They’re just kind of walking around her like this [expletive] don’t mean nothing.”

Michael Ray Rodriguez was among the witnesses who said the man had his hands in the air. He said that he was driving out of his apartment complex past the shooting scene and saw a shirtless black man with his hands raised.

The officer “let go of the trigger and shot him again and again,” Rodriguez told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

El Cajon is about 15 miles northeast of San Diego and has a population of about 100,000. It is 69 percent white and 6 percent black, according to 2010 census figures, and has become a home for many refugees fleeing Iraq and, more recently, Syria.