Alfred Olango was killed by police in California on Tuesday, and video of his shooting death has sparked protests and controversy over whether the shooting was justified.
Olango was killed on Tuesday afternoon after police were called to a strip mall for a report of a man acting erratically. Witnesses said police shot and killed the man after he failed to comply with their orders, though there was some disagreement as to whether he had his hands in the air or may have been threatening police officers.
The shooting sent shock waves through El Cajon, a city about 15 miles from San Diego. Dozens of protesters gathered at the scene, The Huffington Post reported, with many of them chanting at police officers and accusing them of killing the unarmed black man for no reason.
At least one person on the scene reportedly filmed video of the Alfred Olango shooting, but there is confusion about exactly what it showed. Some witnesses claimed that Olango had his hands raised and may have been in some kind of medical distress. One man told NBC 7 that Olango had his hands in the air and looked “scared to death, not knowing which way he was gonna go.”
Olango’s sister, who reportedly called police to help her brother, could be seen on a Facebook video wailing and accusing police officers of murdering her brother. The woman who filmed the Facebook video in the immediate wake of Alfred Olango’s shooting also accused police of improperly shooting the man.
“OK, so the police did it again, y’all,” the Facebook user said. “They shot another unarmed black person, as usual. And the lady is saying she called them for help, not to kill her brother, and they shot her brother.”
But police claim that video of the Alfred Olango shooting, which has not yet been released in full, shows that he actually made threatening gestures toward police.
“The subject paced back and forth while officers tried to talk to him,” noted Captain F. LaHaye of the El Cajon police department. “At one point, 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. At this time, the officer with the electronic control device discharged his weapon. Simultaneously, the officer with the firearm discharged his weapon several times, striking the subject.”
A screenshot of the Alfred Olango shooting video released by police appears to show Olango standing in a shooting stance with his arms extended toward police.
To make the situation even more complicated, there were reports from witnesses that police confiscated video of the Alfred Olango shooting that had been taken by witnesses. Even before the man’s name had been released, the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties put out a statement decrying the rumor, noting that it would be a constitutional violation if police had indeed taken cell phone video from witnesses.
“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. It is hard to see any kind of Fourth Amendment exigent circumstances at issue here.”
But police also contest these rumors, saying that the witness voluntarily gave the footage to officers and signed a written consent for them to view it.
Police have not yet said when the Alfred Olango shooting video might be released in full.
[Featured Image by El Cajon Police Department]