Reportedly behaving erratically behind a restaurant at a strip mall in El Cajon CA, a black man in his 30s was shot to death by responding police officers after he “rapidly drew an object” from his pocket, according to police. The man pointed the object at the officers and assumed a “shooting stance,” according to authorities, before the officers fired. One of the two officer failed to subdue the unidentified man with a stun gun before the other officer fired his service weapon several times, according to El Cajon Police Chief Jeff Davis in a news conference last night. Chief Davis admitted that the object was not a gun, but would not say what it was.
Even before police announced the death, dozens of protesters assembled at the scene of the shooting. Some claimed that the man’s hands were raised when he was shot. However, police disputed those claims and offered a still from a witness’s cellphone video that appeared to show that the man was indeed in a two-handed “shooting stance” while the two officers approached with their guns drawn. Once he was shot, the man was taken to a hospital where he expired.
Before police announced the death, as many as 200 protesters gathered at the shooting scene, while some claimed that the man was shot with his hands raised. Police disputed that and produced a frame from cellphone video taken by a witness that appeared to show the man in the "shooting stance" as two officers approached with weapons drawn. However, in their news release, police said, “While detectives were on scene investigating the officer involved shooting, a witness came forward and notified officers they had video footage of the incident. 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. Investigators are reviewing the video and other video recovered from the scene.  All video recovered so far in this investigation clearly shows the incident as described above."
Tensions are growing in the community, according to some reports. Dramatic accounts of the shooting were spreading rapidly on social media last night. “The police did it again, you all. They shot another unarmed black person as usual,” says Rumbie Mubaiwa, in a Facebook Live video she streamed of moments after the shooting. “And the lady is saying she called them for help… and they shot her brother,” the narrator says, referring to the man’s supposed sister. At one point, Mubaiwa challenges police directly, accusing them of lacking compassion for the sister.
The incident occurred just weeks after an unarmed black man was shot to death by an officer in Tulsa, Oklahoma, while an armed black man was shot to death in Charlotte, North Carolina. In the former of the two incidents, the shooting officer has been charged with manslaughter, while the latter inspired two nights of rioting and is still unresolved.
 
 
Most of the protesters at the angry protest in El Cajon were black and chanted "black lives matter!" and "hands up, don't shoot!" Chief Davis called for calm and promised that the investigation will be thorough. "This will be transparent," he said. "This will be looked at by multiple sets of eyes, and not just ours." The two officers involved in that case have been placed on administrative leave. They have not been identified other than having been described as having over 20 years of experience.  The local district attorney will also investigate the shooting.  "Now is the time for calm," Davis said. "Now is the time for the investigation to shed light on this event. ... Now is the time for the community to work with us." Police are trying to determine whether the man who died last night was mentally ill.
 
“He was like this, don’t shoot, don’t shoot and they still shot him,” said one witness. Another witness told NBC news, “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...As soon as he runs this way, they discharge boom, boom, boom… five shots.”
 
 Authorities say that the man refused "multiple" orders to take his hand from his pocket, then was shot after pulling out the object. On social media, the name “Alfred Olango” was trending in connection with the shooting, but the man has yet to be officially identified. A Facebook post identified him as an employee of a local Hooters restaurant.
 
A female witness on the scene voluntarily provided cellphone video of the incident, according to police. Authorities did not release the video, only the single frame from it. El Cajon officers are not equipped with body cameras. Reportedly, officers confiscated the cellphones of witnesses. In response, the ACLU released a statement,  “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.” On Twitter, police denied that any cellphones were confiscated.
A video that has emerged on Facebook that recorded an unidentified woman telling police at the scene that the man was ordered to take his hand out of his pocket. "I said: 'Take your hand out your pocket, baby, or they're going to shoot you.' He said 'no, no, no,' " the woman said. "When he lifted his hand out ... he did have something in his hand but it wasn't no gun, and that's when they shot him."
 
Another woman on the video, who was wearing medical-style scrubs, claimed to be the man’s sister. She repeatedly shrieking and weeping, she told officers that she had called them to help her brother, who she described as mentally ill. "I just called for help, and you came and killed him," she said. Police have not verified whether she is related to the dead man. His name has not been released, pending notification of kin.
Witness Michael Ray Rodriguez was among those who said that the man had raised his hands in the air. Rodriguez told the San Diego Union-Tribune that the officer "let go of the trigger and shot him again and again."
"We all want the right thing to happen," Rock Church pastor Miles McPherson said last night. "We always want the truth to come out, but we want it to come out in a peaceful way."
 
"It kind of makes you think, 'Hey, that could be me,' " protester Caleb Quarles told CNN. "That could one of my friends. That could even be my mom." Early this morning, a handful of black mourners were still assembled in the parking lot where the man was shot. Silently forming a circle, they prayed and held hands.  "Obviously we knew him or we wouldn't be here this late," one of the mourners said. "We just want to grieve." 


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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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