El Cajon police fatally shoot black man
A black man was killed by police fire. A recurring story in news outlets for the last two years, these police shootings have brought about riots, protests, and political debates. But this time, it was Alfred Olango, and it was less than 20 miles away in El Cajon, Calif.
On Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016, El Cajon lost one of its residents. This fatal shooting has brought about much sadness and anger, as well as other mixed emotions. Turns out, this case may not be all that it seemed. Olango, a 38-year-old Ugandan refugee, was reportedly exhibiting erratic and threatening behavior before police officers arrived on scene. After the officers tried to get Olango to cooperate, one of the officers fatally shot him.
According to CNN, a woman who claimed to be Olango’s sister, which has not yet been confirmed, made a 911 call explaining that a man was acting out in a parking lot. Many news sources explain that the 911 caller stated that Olango was unarmed. While this turned out to be true, the police explained that Olango posed a threat when they encountered him.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Police Chief Jeff Davis explained how the situation unfolded. Davis said that the officers found Olango behind a restaurant at 2:11 p.m. and that he posed a threat, as he was uncooperative with the officers’ instructions.
“[He] rapidly drew an object from his front pants’ pockets, placed both hands together on it and extended it rapidly toward [one] officer, taking what appeared to be a shooting stance,” Davis said.
It turns out that Olango was holding an object, which can been seen in an image released by the El Cajon police department. However, the object turned out to have been a vape. Police explained that Olango was holding the vape and refusing to cooperate with officers. At the time of the incident, the 911 caller said that Olango was unstable. According to CNN, however, Olango’s mother insisted that he was mentally stable.
“He wasn’t mentally ill—never,” Olango’s mother said. “He was going through a mental breakdown. He lost someone dearly, […] mental breakdown was not easy to control; he needed someone to calm him down.”
It was later revealed that Olango was allegedly acting out because of grief over the loss of his best friend earlier that week.
Reports say that Olango was being uncooperative and that, while one officer prepared a taser, Olango took a shooting stance. Olango was then shot by Officer Richard Gonsalves and tased by Officer Josh McDaniel. He died after paramedics were called to the scene. In the aftermath of the event, protests in El Cajon ensued, bringing over 200 people to the streets to march against what happened.
The University of San Diego is just over a 22-minute drive away from El Cajon. On the small campus of USD, community members have once again opened up discussions about injustice.
Faculty members led a teach-in on Tuesday, Oct. 4 in front of Maher Hall to better educate the USD campus about Olango’s death.
The event invite, that was circulated on social media a day earlier, explained that the teach-in would be to educate.
“The death of Alfred Olango has intensified and brought right home the need for clarity, critical thinking, and grounded action,” the invite said. “Out of concern for the misinformation and media spins saturating our environment, faculty members have organized a teach-in […] outside Maher Hall. The teach-in will feature San Diego community organizers who are on the front lines of the Olango incident, faculty, and students. The goal of teach-in is to provide our campus community with an informed narrative of these ongoing events. All are invited and welcome.”
The teach-in was put on by the Ethnic Studies Department and hosted a number of speakers. Christopher Rice Wilson, the Associate Director of the Alliance for San Diego, was one of the main speakers at the event. Wilson lead the crowd in a chant before starting his speech.
“It is our duty to fight for our freedom,” Wilson said. “We must win. We must love and respect each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
Wilson further stated that he has been at the protests in El Cajon since Tuesday, and he has scene no violence among protesters. Wilson claimed that the media was misrepresenting what was occurring during the protests and that he had seen police officers throwing bottles to spark anger not protesters.
Wilson asked questions about how the police reacted to this situation.
“Why did they draw their gun as soon as they left their car?” Wilson said. “Why corner him?”
Despite the frustration among southern California community members, not everyone is convinced the shooting was unjustified. According to a ABC News poll, 51 percent of a 629 person poll claim that the shooting was justified. Due to Olango’s stance and the vape in his hand, it appeared that this fatal shooting might not be so cut and dry.
As the FBI and police investigate the event, southern California citizens will await official decision to see if Officer Richard Gonsalves was justified under the law in shooting Olango. In the meantime, Olango’s family and community mourn his death.
Written by Sarah Brewington, Associate Editor and Kevin Nelson, News Editor