Lawyer Brian Dunn, flanked by Olango's family members and other legal counsel
  • Lawyer Brian Dunn, flanked by Olango's family members and other legal counsel
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The family of Alfred Olango, an unarmed black man who was shot and killed by El Cajon police in September, have filed a second claim against the police department, accusing the officers involved of excessive force and negligence. Such actions, to which the department has 45 days to respond, are typically precursors to a lawsuit, which counsel for the family has promised is forthcoming.

"We're here for one reason only — we don't want another family to go through this," attorney Brian Dunn told media assembled at a Thursday afternoon (November 3) press conference. "We are seeking reforms in not only the way that the El Cajon Police Department responds to mental crises, but every police department....

"This case occurred because a family member of Alfred Olango wanted to help him," Dunn continued. "She called for help, and because of a series of tactical decisions she did not get the help she desired and instead had the most horrific experience imaginable."

Olango's sister Lucy, who filed a separate claim last month, made three calls to 911 over a 50-minute period requesting assistance for her brother, who she said at the time was "not acting like himself."

Instead of sending a unit trained in dealing with psychiatric emergencies, police sent officers including Richard Gonsalves, a former sergeant who'd been demoted in the wake of sexual harassment accusations. While a second officer prepared to deploy a taser to subdue Olango, Gonsalves fired five fatal shots when Olango assumed what was described by police as a "shooting stance" while brandishing an unidentified object, later identified as an e-cigarette.

"Alfred Olango isn't the only individual with a hashtag before his name, but what we're doing today is trying to ensure justice so we won't see the continuing flow of hashtags like we've seen in 2016," said attorney Rodney Diggs, referring to a spate of police killings that gained widespread media attention over the past year. Diggs represents Olango's father, who expects to file a third claim against the department in the coming weeks.

"This lawsuit isn't just going to be an Olango family lawsuit," added Dan Gilleon, counsel for Olango's sister. "These are going to be the public's documents, you're going to have a right to see them. And this is going to shed a light on what happened....

"Clearly, this was negligence," Gilleon continued. "You've been told multiple times that he needs help, and you arrive on the scene, pull your gun out and confront the man like you're a cowboy — what do you think is going to happen?"

The latest claim, filed by Olango's widow, Tania Rozier, and the couple's two children, accuses the police department of unconstitutional policies and practices, and says the department failed to properly train its officers to handle mental health crises. Olango, the family said after the incident, was distraught and grieving over the recent death of a close friend.

Local National Action Network leader Shane Harris, meanwhile, promised more demonstrations against the department, promising to rally "thousands" in the coming weeks.

"People think that we jump on this stuff," Harris said, acknowledging criticism lodged earlier in the day by the Center for Urban Renewal and Education, which has accused Al Sharpton and the Network of "seeking to race-bait and divide." "We're not ambulance chasers, we're the ambulance.

"The long fight for justice is just beginning,'' Harris continued, repeating earlier calls for an independent investigation into the shooting and the firing of Gonsalves. "And you can best believe that I'm going to keep running my mouth until I see these issues of policing — police must know that if they hold misconduct, they will pay the price."

After the 45-day period passes for police to respond to claims made by the family, the department will have six months to file a lawsuit. Lawyers for all parties said they did not have a set amount of damages they were seeking, nor had they decided on the best venue in which to pursue a case.

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Comments

AlexClarke Nov. 4, 2016 @ 5:41 p.m.

While not defending the officer one has to consider the situation from an officers perspective. Dispatch assigned a primary and a secondary officer to the situation. The first officer arriving can not rely on information that was relayed via the dispatcher he has to rely on what he sees upon arrival. Because the incident is in a wide open public area the officer has to consider his safety and the safety of the public. He encounters an individual that is wandering around the parking lot. He does not know if the person is on drugs or is armed and has no knowledge of the persons mental state. He approaches the subject and verbally contacts the person. It is imperative that the person complies with the officers order to show his hands. No police officer was ever shot by a face or a foot. The subject refuses to comply and continues to act out. As the officer approaches the subject pulls something out of a pocket and assumes a shooter stance. All police training teaches that you shoot at the threat. Only in the movies do the police wait until they are looking down the barrel of a gun. Just what should this officer have done? Wait until his back up arrived? Waited until the subject ran into a store or into the crowd? Maybe he should have waited and done nothing. I am sure the outcry would have been much larger if the officer had done nothing and an innocent citizen been injured. It is easy to Monday morning quarterback the officers have to make the shoot - don't shoot decision in milliseconds. If you wait you die. This is life on the street.

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Ponzi Nov. 6, 2016 @ 1:05 p.m.

Clasping this in two hands and pointing it would sure look like a gun. Uncooperative person, pointing this at you and you have a split-second to make a decision. What would you do?

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AlexClarke Nov. 7, 2016 @ 5:35 a.m.

Nothing just lived off the largess of the taxpayer. He was an illegal alien and convicted criminal. NHI

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bbq Nov. 7, 2016 @ 7:12 a.m.

Ponzi and AlexClarke, Your last two comments were uncalled for, they just show your contempt for the victim of a tragic situation. Weather we believe in the actions of the Police Officer or the actions of Mr. Olango wanting to commit suicide by police officer there is a lot of grey area in this situation. While the activities of the family and the Lawyers, to find blame and fault may seem to be vindictive, it is their right to follow up using the criminal and civil laws of this country. We definitely have an issue in the United States of America where we, the people are not United... We have been divided from the actions of our forefathers and history that differentiates us based on physical differences. We are currently going through a troubling period where everyone is being very reactionary to issues never properly addressed since the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s. I have been alive long enough to see the original along with the new rifts caused by inequities in living conditions, wealth, education and employment. Before you call me out as a Liberal, I consider myself a moderate conservative and want to see a better world and community for us all. I wish I had a one step answer to the issues but I do not, all I know is a little compassion and empathy goes a long way. BBQ

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Ponzi Nov. 7, 2016 @ 10:35 a.m.

BBQ, what is wrong with asking about the occupation of the decedent? I asked out of curiosity. Now if one feels I should assume he was unemployed, that would be racist.

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bbq Nov. 7, 2016 @ 1:30 p.m.

Ponzi, No racist innuendo meant, AlexClarke's implication weather backed up or not, does smack of exactly where I was going with the rest of my comment. The realities of the people of the United States are badly skewed. Way too much assumption and preconception based on superficial differences. My son wrote a opinion piece for the Ball State Daily about this, pertaining to Colin Kaepernack, Just want people to think beyond themselves, its one way to start to fix these issues.BBQ

http://www.ballstatedaily.com/article/2016/09/opinion-kaepernick-national-anthem

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Ponzi Nov. 9, 2016 @ 7:34 a.m.

bbq. I don't usually correct people's spelling, but in both of your comments you used the word "weather" which pertains to climate. You might want to replace it with "whether" in the future.

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Ponzi Nov. 9, 2016 @ 9 a.m.

I'm sorry, but I could not get myself to read your sons story. Once I see the name Colin Kaepernack, I just move on. Nothing says loser to me more than that man.

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