Community activists are upset after a video tape of the controversial officer-involved shooting of an unarmed black man in El Cajon was released on Friday. They argue that the tape should have been shown to the family before it was made public.
Alfred Olango, 38, was shot during a police encounter in the parking lot of a shopping plaza on the 800 block of Broadway in El Cajon on Tuesday. His death sparked protests in the East County community of San Diego—many community activists and protesters clamoring for the release of video evidence of the shooting captured by an employee from the drive-thru of a nearby restaurant.
On Friday, the El Cajon Police Department (ECPD) Chief Jeff Davis was joined by San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells in a press conference. Chief Davis announced the decision to release two video clips of the shooting.
Davis said the decision came after a concern for public safety.
One video was captured by a witness's cellphone as she worked her shift at a nearby taco shop, while the other is from one of the restaurant’s surveillance cameras. Two ECPD officers, identified as Richard Gonsalves and Josh McDaniel, can be seen approaching Olango. The video also appear to show Olango's sister, wearing nurse's scrubs, near one of the officers.
According to a Public Information Officer with the ECPD, the officer who pulled up in the police cruiser was the one who deployed the Taser while the first officer fired the shots.
But Rev. Shane Harris, President of the San Diego Chapter of the National Action Network (NAN) said Olango’s family never had a chance to see the video before it was released. He says that usually the District Attorney’s office contacts the family prior to releasing any video footage.
“I am shocked that they would go to this extent to release the tape in such a way that did not agree with the family,” Harris said.
According to the family’s attorney, they were notified the video would be shown during the press conference an hour and a half before—which Harris argued was not enough time for the family to gather all members and head to the El Cajon police station.
“It seems as though the Mayor of El Cajon, the Police Chief just jumped ahead to try to stop the protests that are going to take place and that are taking place,” Harris said. “They want peace. But what they don’t understand is that if there is no justice, there is no peace.”
Rev. Gerald Brown, Executive Director of the United African American Ministerial Action Council (UAAMAC) and Dr. André José Branch with the San Diego branch of the NAACP applauded Chief Jeff Davis and San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis for releasing the video.
But Harris said he saw both leaders as "sell-out material," adding that neither Brown nor Dr. Branch had been in contact with Olango's family.
“Today we’re saying that we do not agree with what we saw. It further affirms our fight for justice, our fight for Alfred Olango—and it further affirms that in this county, in this city, the District Attorney continues to overstep leaders who actually are in the community for those that she calls community leaders—to pull them into press conferences to affirm what she has to say," he said. "We’re heavily concerned.”
Norma Chavez-Peterson, Executive Director of the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties also released a statement on Friday night in response to the videos. Chavez-Peterson said they videos raised concerns regarding police response to calls that involve people of color, especially those with disabilities.
"The video raises serious questions about whether proper de-escalation tactics were used to respond to a call of a person going through a mental health crisis," Chavez-Peterson said in a statement.
The statement also read, in part: "If the department wishes to engage in real transparency and build community trust, they must release all information regarding this shooting. We call on El Cajon Police Department to release all remaining footage and all recordings of communications, including 911 calls and communications between responding officers and dispatch, leading up to the killing of Mr. Olango.
Harris said a march to the El Cajon police station was planned for Saturday, adding that Olango's family and NAN are calling for peaceful and non-violent protests.