- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Dozens gathered Wednesday morning outside the police department in El Cajon, California, to protest a police officer’s fatal shooting of an unarmed and mentally ill black man — an incident they say raises questions about how the department handles calls involving people suffering from mental illness.

Rallies to call attention to the man’s death continued throughout the day, with protesters coming face to face with a line of law enforcement officers as they shut down a major roadway Wednesday afternoon in the San Diego suburb.

The shooing occurred Tuesday afternoon outside a shopping center in El Cajon after officers were called for a report of an man who was behaving erratically and “not acting like himself.”

El Cajon police officials said the man refused multiple commands from the two officers at the scene to remove his hand from his pocket. He paced back and forth and then quickly removed an item from his pocket, “placed both hands together and extended them rapidly toward the officer taking up what appeared to be a shooting stance,” according to the police department’s account.

One of the officers deployed a Taser, but the other, who had a firearm drawn and pointed at the man, opened fire. The man later died.

Police have not identified the item the man pulled from his pocket but have confirmed that no gun was recovered at the scene.

Video taken by a bystander shortly after the shooting shows a woman described as the man’s sister screaming at officers and asking why they shot him.

“Don’t you guys have a crisis communication team to talk to somebody mentally sick?” the woman said. “I called for help. I didn’t call you guys to kill him.”

While police have not released the man’s name, friends and family identified him as 30-year-old Alfred Olango, a refugee from Uganda.

Police obtained cellphone video of the shooting from a bystander and have released a still-frame image that appears to show Mr. Olango pointing an object at the two police officers. The entire video of the shooting has not been released, and El Cajon police do not have body cameras, which would have captured the incident.

Estela De Los Rios, social justice advocate from El Cajon, was among the protesters gathered Wednesday who asked that the Department of Justice investigate the shooting.

“We know there is a photo out there that tells just one side of the story,” Ms. De Los Rios said.

Others questioned why the police department did not call for a Psychiatric Emergency Response Team to respond alongside the officers.

“The PERT team should have been dispatched to deal with Mr. Olango,” said Eddie Price, a local community organizer. “The El Cajon Police Department did not follow its policy and that needs to be questioned.”

El Cajon police officials could not be reached Wednesday to address questions about protocol in incidents involving individuals with mental illnesses.

At a Tuesday night news conference, El Cajon Police Chief Jeff Davis urged calm and asked the public to let the investigation unfold before making any judgments about the incident.

“Now is the time for calm,” Chief Davis said. “Now is the time to allow the investigation to shed light on this event and we plan to be open and transparent within the rules of the law.”

But witness accounts already have led to a different narrative of the shooting, which the police department sought to rebut Tuesday night.

Officials made several posts on the police department’s Twitter page, stating that no phones were confiscated at the scene from bystanders and that video evidence recovered refutes claims that the victim had his hands up in the air at the time he was shot.

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