Christopher Rice-Wilson addresses assembled media
Protests continued Wednesday morning (September 28) outside the El Cajon Police Department, after officers shot and killed an unarmed black man they say was "not only endangering himself, but motorists."
On Tuesday afternoon, Alfred Olango's sister made three calls to 911 dispatchers over a 50-minute period, saying Olango "was not acting like himself" and requesting assistance. Police arrived and found Olango behind a restaurant on the 800 block of Broadway, though earlier reports said he was walking aimlessly, sometimes stepping into the street and facing oncoming traffic.
Reports on the events that followed differ significantly. Witnesses told news services that Olango had his hands at his side or raised, though a release from police maintains Olango "refused multiple instructions by the first officer on scene to remove his concealed hand from in his pocket."
Photo released by El Cajon Police Department
One officer drew a gun on Olango, while another prepared to employ a Taser device. At this point, according to police, "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."
Believing Olango to be in possession of a weapon, he was simultaneously Tased and shot several times, suffering fatal injuries. Later reports state that he was holding "an object."
Several people in a nearby taco shop report that police entered the restaurant and seized cell phones of staff and customers, though this allegation was also disputed. Police insist that a single witness voluntarily came forward and supplied a phone from which video of the shooting was obtained and that no other devices were accessed by law enforcement. A single still image was released by the department, showing Olango in the "shooting stance" with the two officers just a few paces away.
Protests drawing dozens, first at the site of the shooting and then outside police headquarters, began in the afternoon and continued into early Wednesday. At 9 a.m. demonstrators, by then numbering more than 100, reconvened in front of the station. A note taped to the locked doors informed visitors that the department's routine services would not be offered for the duration of the day.
"Mr. Olango was killed by three strikes," Christopher Rice-Wilson told a group of assembled media. "His first strike was being black, his second was being mentally ill, and the third was not following orders. But how can you expect a man who can't understand demands to follow them?
"The PERT Team [Psychiatric Emergency Response Teams] should have been the ones responding to this. The police were aware of his mental illness: this was a 5150 call and they should have dispatched officers trained to deal with this and de-escalate the situation. El Cajon police didn't do this; they didn't follow their own policy."
Bishop Cornelius Bowser defined the follow-up to the shooting as "a matter of procedural justice."
"Alfred was not treated with dignity or respect. His family's voice was not heard in this process when they called for help, not for police to kill him. There's a lack of transparency in the sense of putting out information. We don't want to see a still picture of [Olango] pointing something that is not a gun — we want to see the full video.
"If you don't want to see this disruption in San Diego, if you don't want protests going on, the best way to handle this is to convey a trustworthy motive. But because of the relationship between police and the black community, that trust has been ruined. To move forward we need transparency, and we don't see that yet."
Rice-Wilson, continuing on the transparency issue, was questioned about what Olango may have been holding when he was killed.
"I personally asked the police chief ten times about the object, and he didn't respond," Rice-Wilson replied. "But you've got to consider that, after collecting evidence, they're still calling it an object. If the object was a gun, they would've called it a gun, if it was a knife they would've said it was a knife, and if it were a baton they would have called it a baton."
A CNN report stated police specified that the object was not a weapon.
National Action Network's Shane Harris, meanwhile, was among those calling for an outside investigation of the shooting.
"We need a federal investigation, because we don't trust Bonnie Dumanis. The local district attorney has proven that she is not for minorities in our communities," Harris said. "The country's eyes are on this city now. What are you going to do now? The whole country is watching America's finest city, and it ain't looking so fine."
Harris also hinted that he had damaging personal information about an officer involved in the shooting but refused to go into detail, saying he would call his own press conference after meeting with Olango's family.
"I'm questioning why we're watching this happen almost every day without doing anything," said Mallory Webb, president of the local youth chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Webb began naming other recent police shooting victims, and when she paused the crowd filled in, shouting a dozen or more names that have made national headlines over the past year. "I'm angry, and I'm hurt — [Olango] could be my little brother, or my twin sister, or me at any time."
The officers have not been identified by the police department but have been placed on administrative leave while two investigations, one internal and another by the district attorney's office, are ongoing.
Despite pleas from police chief Jeff Davis for calm and a reservation of judgment until more is known about the shooting, protesters continued to trickle into the plaza adjacent to police headquarters as the morning wore on.
By noon the crowd had swelled to 200 or more and a march to the site of the shooting, approximately a mile from police headquarters. Traffic was stopped several times before Broadway was brought to a standstill and protesters faced off against a large police contingent, many dressed in riot gear.