Shane Harris and Xavier Becerra
Community leaders in San Diego are continuing their quest to have a special prosecutor review the fatal September 2016 police shooting of 38-year-old El Cajon resident Alfred Olango.
On March 24 activist Shane Harris, president of San Diego's branch of the National Action Network, met with California attorney general Xavier Becerra at Becerra's Los Angeles office to request that he appoint a special prosecutor in the case.
"It has been our belief at National Action Network all along that local district attorneys investigating local police is a conflict of interest and that these types of investigations must happen independent so it builds public trust," reads a statement from Harris released after the meeting.
Earlier this year San Diego County district attorney Bonnie Dumanis ruled that El Cajon police officer Richard Gonsalves was justified in his shooting of the unarmed Olango, who was shot in the parking lot of an El Cajon taco shop in daylight hours. Shortly after the shooting Gonsalves said he believed Olango was armed because he had been tugging at his pocket; officers, however, did not find a gun but an e-cigarette that Olango had been trying to remove from his pocket.
Dumanis’s ruling angered activists and community members. They believe an independent investigator would find that Gonsalves did not have reason to fire the shots. Olango’s sister, who had called authorities because her brother was acting strange, was telling Gonsalves and the other officer at the scene that Olango did not have any weapons.
And while Harris’s meeting did not result in a call for a special prosecutor, Harris says it is the first step in the right direction. Harris says Becerra vowed to work closely with civil rights leaders on police accountability and promised to meet with Olango's family to discuss the shooting.
"Although I do not know what the outcomes will be," says Harris. "I am confident the families we are working for will get some kind of closure and justice. We are one step closer than before and that is what is important."
As Harris and others plead for a special prosecutor to investigate Olango's death, Olango's family will continue with their civil lawsuit they filed against Gonsalves and the El Cajon Police Department in February of this year.