Witnesses say a black man who was shot and killed by police in El Cajon, California on September 27 was unarmed, yelled “don’t shoot” repeatedly, and had his hands stretched out.
In a news conference and press release, police said they found no weapon at the scene; they had responded to 911 calls from Alfred Olango’s sister and found him walking in traffic. However, they also painted a more complicated picture, saying the man concealed his hand in his pants pocket, paced back and forth, and then rapidly drew an “object” from his pants pocket and extended it toward an officer, taking “what appeared to be a shooting stance, putting the object in the officer’s face.” To bolster their point, with protests growing more raucous outside the door, police released a still shot from a citizen cell phone video they say they voluntarily received.
On September 30, police released the full citizen video of the shooting. They also identified the officer who shot Olango as Richard Gonsalves. Watch the video here and learn more about Gonsalves here.
Police said an officer fired a taser and a second officer, the one who had the object pointed at him, fired his weapon, striking the 38-year-old man. On Wednesday, police said in a news release, “The object that Mr. Olango drew from his pant pocket and pointed at the officer is a vape smoking device. The vape has an all silver cylinder (Smok TFV4 MINI) that is approximately 1” diameter and 3” long that was pointed toward the officer. The box of the vape that was held in his grip, is 4” x 2 1/4”s x 1” (Pioneer for You Vape). The vape was collected as evidence from the scene.” Here is a picture of it, released by police on September 30:
Also Wednesday, one of the officers at the scene was identified by the mayor as Richard Gonsalves, who was previously accused of sexual harassment. It was not clear whether he was the officer who fired his gun or the officer who deployed a taser.
Police confirmed in a news release that the man has died. The name Alfred Olango was trending on Twitter after the woman identified as the man’s sister gave his name to police in a scene captured in a dramatic Facebook Live post (see it below: Warning, it’s emotionally disturbing and contains graphic language). The man has not been formally identified, though.
Police deny Olango had his hands in the air; they have more frames capturing the shooting from the mobile phone video they have not released publicly. NBC 7 San Diego quoted another eyewitness as saying the man “refused to remove his arms from his side.” Police also revealed it took them 50 minutes to respond to the man’s sister’s 911 call, although they were unclear as to whether she had called three times as some reports said. They said the full video is evidence under the jurisdiction of the District Attorney’s office, which is why they were not releasing the entire thing.
They said the man was walking in traffic and “not acting like himself” when they responded.
“I called you guys to come help me and you killed my brother,” the sister shrieks in grief to the police at the scene in the Facebook Live video. “You guys killed my brother!”
An angry crowd was growing at the scene on September 27.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Witnesses Said Olango Had His Hands out When He Was Shot
“I see a man, I see a black man surrounded by officers with their guns out… black man with his hands up …he’s jerking, he’s confused, he runs this way,” said one eyewitness interviewed by an NBC15 reporter. “As soon as he runs this way, they discharge boom, boom, boom… five shots.”
A second man said that was “exactly what I seen” also. Watch the video above. The men then put their arms out and said the shot man was unarmed and had his hands extended out.
“He was like this, don’t shoot, don’t shoot and they still shot him,” said one of the witnesses in the above video, with his arms extended.
Other eyewitness accounts, some similar, are collected here:
The Daily News said police had earlier declined to say whether the man was armed. 10News said a witness said they did not see a weapon, and one witness reported seeing a vape electronic smoking device. One woman says during the Facebook Live video that the man had something in his hand, but it wasn’t a gun. Police have now confirmed the latter account; they say the man had an object, but not a firearm.
2. The Man’s Sister Allegedly Called Police for Help & the Man Was Walking in Traffic
The man’s sister was captured on video crying at the scene. “The police did it again, you all. They shot another unarmed black person as usual,” said Rumbie Mubaiwa, in the dramatic Facebook Live video that has received more than 22,000 views. “And the lady is saying she called them for help… and they shot her brother,” the narrator says, referring to the man’s sister.
In the Facebook video, the woman identified as the man’s sister says, “I called you to help me but you killed my brother….Why couldn’t you guys tase him? Why why why why?” according to NBC 7 San Diego, which also reported that witnesses said the man was shirtless.
Police said, in the news conference, that the sister said in her first 911 call that the man was unarmed and mentally ill.
Police said one officer did deploy a taser, but the officer who allegedly had the object pointed at him fired a service weapon.
Police said the man didn’t follow their orders after they responded to three radio calls to the scene, according to The New York Daily News. In the news conference, police said the man was walking in traffic and not acting like himself when they responded.
Police said on Twitter that the man was behaving in an “erratic” fashion. Fox 5 San Diego said “the involved officers were responding to a report of an uncooperative person walking in traffic,” according to police.
The police news release says, “The subject paced back and forth while officers tried to talk to him. At one point, the subject rapidly drew an object from his front pants pocket, placed both hands together and extended them rapidly toward the officer taking up what appeared to be a shooting stance. At this time, the officer with the electronic control device discharged his weapon. Simultaneously, the officer with the firearm discharged his weapon several times, striking the subject.”
3. Police Deny Reports They Confiscated Cell Phones of People Who Took Videos at the Scene
According to NBC 7 San Diego, “One witness at a local restaurant told NBC 7 police came and confiscated their cell phones following the incident; another witness recalled hearing an officer fire three or four rounds.”
Police said it’s not true that they confiscated any cell phones. In the news conference, they said a person who took a video of the shooting approached them and volunteered the video.
“While detectives where on scene investigating the officer involved shooting, a witness came forward and notified officers they had video footage of the incident,” police wrote in the news release. “That witness voluntarily provided their phone to the police department and gave written consent for the officers to view the video. Investigators have been able to download the video. This was the only phone provided to officers in this investigation. No other phones were taken from witnesses.”
The ACLU of San Diego released a statement saying facts were still coming in but adding, “Unfortunately, there are disturbing reports from a number of witnesses that police officers confiscated cell phones from people who witnessed the shooting. Confiscating cell phones is a violation of the Fourth Amendment (unreasonable seizure without warrant or exigent circumstance) and the First Amendment (interference with the right to record in public) under the U.S. Constitution and analogous rights under the California Constitution.”
4. The Man Was Struggling With Mental Health Issues & Might Have Been Having a Seizure, Reports Say
The shooting occurred outside Broadway Village Shopping Center around 1 p.m. in the community near San Diego, said El Cajon police. 10News said one witness said the shot man “was having a seizure.” Witnesses reported hearing five shots, said the TV station.
Police said in the news conference that they found the man behind a restaurant, and he was pacing back and forth and refusing instructions .Police said they were investigating whether the man was mentally ill, but they said they have no evidence to back up eyewitness reports that he might have been having a seizure.
Fox 5 said the shooting took place near an intersection and restaurant. Police said how many times the man was shot is under investigation. They said the community is tight-knit, and pastors had reached out to help keep calm.
You can watch the full police news conference here:
A witness said the man had mental health issues, reported Fox 5. He was initially reported to be in critical condition.
The San Diego Union Tribune said that El Cajon police do not have body cameras.
5. Anger Was Growing at the Scene of the Shooting
People were streaming live on Facebook from the scene, which was growing more chaotic. A hashtag in the name of Alfred Olango was also circulating widely on social media as people shared upset about the shooting, the latest in a country on edge over two other police shootings in Tulsa and Charlotte.
Anger was starting to grow on Tuesday evening at both the scene of the shooting and also on social media.
Police were chanting “hands up, don’t shoot” at police officers at the scene.
At one point, protesters stormed the police tape at the scene.
The protests started again on Wednesday: