Moral Low Ground


Unarmed Black Man Alfred Olango Shot Dead By El Cajon, California Police


Police in the San Diego suburb of El Cajon, California shot and killed an unarmed black man on Tuesday after his sister called 911 to ask for help with a mental health emergency.

The Los Angeles Times reports relatives identified the victim as 30-year-old Alfred Olango. El Cajon Police Chief Jeff Davis told reporters Olango’s sister called police and told them that her brother was “not acting like himself.” According to police, Olango was walking in traffic in the 800 block of Broadway before two officers arrived at 2:11 p.m. and saw him behind a restaurant.

Some eyewitnesses said Olango had his hands out to his side when he was confronted by police. Other witnesses said Olango had his hands in the air when he was shot first with a stun gun and then five times with live ammunition.

“I see a black man surrounded by officers with their guns out, which caught my attention,” witness Michael Ray Rodriguez told NBC San Diego. “So I tell the others, ‘Look, look, look,’ so that we’re all looking, we’re watching. The black man was up with his hands up like this, scared to death, not knowing which way he’s going to go. As he don’t know which way he goes, he’s jerking, he’s confused. He runs this way. As soon as he runs this way, they discharge  — boom, boom, boom — five shots right into him.”

“I didn’t hear any command ‘Halt’, ‘Stop’ or ‘I’ll shoot,’” one witness identified as George told NBC San Diego. “I didn’t hear any command or yelling. I didn’t hear the man say anything. Next thing I see ‘Pow, pow, pow, pow, pow’ – five shots.”

Chief Davis disputed the eyewitness accounts, claiming Olango ignored multiple instructions from an officer and “concealed his hand in his pants pockets” while pacing back and forth. He then “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.

“The investigation just started, but based on the video voluntarily provided by a witness, the subject did NOT have his hands up in the air,” El Cajon Police Department said on its Twitter page.

Witnesses to the shooting told reporters police confiscated their cell phones in the wake of the incident. In one dramatic video posted on Facebook, a woman named Rumbie Mubaiwa begins recording moments after Olango is shot. The victim’s sister can be heard crying in the background.

“OK, so the police did it again, y’all. They shot another unarmed black person, as usual,” Mubaiwa narrates. “And the lady is saying she called them for help, not to kill her brother. And they shot her brother.”

“I called you to help me, but you killed my brother,” the victim’s sister tells police. “Guys, why couldn’t you tase him? Why couldn’t you guys tase him? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?… I told you he’s sick. And you guys shot him.”

“I called three times for them to come help me,” the sister says in the video. “Nobody came. They said it’s not priority,” Democracy Now reports police scanner audio at the time of the shooting reveals officers knew they were responding to a “5150” call, police code for a mental health emergency. Police apparently did not dispatch a Psychiatric Emergency Response Team, and it took them 50 minutes to respond to Olango’s sister’s 911 call.

Olango’s killing sparked protests in front of El Cajon police headquarters on Wednesday.

“Mr. Olango was killed for three strikes,” Christopher Rice-Wilson, associate director of the Alliance for San Diego, told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “His first strike was for being black. His second strike was being mentally ill.  And his third strike was not following orders. How can you expect a man who can’t understand your orders to follow your orders?”

“They’re saying they shot an unarmed black man. And we have to ask why,” Rice-Wilson added. “Why is it OK to just kill a man when you think he has a weapon? The policy states you must see a weapon, and, more than that, the weapon must be aimed, pointed or causing harm to you. It’s not enough to say somebody had a gun or a knife or any weapon, and shoot them because they possessed a weapon. The police have to be under threat. They have to fear for their life. And the mere existence of an object in any man’s hand, let alone a black man’s hand, is not justification for killing him.”

El Cajon police are not equipped with body cameras However, police said an eyewitness at Los Panchos restaurant, where the shooting occurred, captured the entire incident on a mobile phone camera and voluntarily turned the footage over to authorities.

The Olango shooting comes as protests continue over the police killings of Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, North Carolina and Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Tulsa officer Betty Shelby has been charged with manslaughter in connection with Crutcher’s death. In the wake of the most recent police shootings of black people, a report by the United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent stated that “contemporary police killings and the trauma that they create are reminiscent of the past racial terror of lynching.”

“In particular, the legacy of colonial history, enslavement, racial subordination and segregation, racial terrorism and racial inequality in the United States remains a serious challenge, as there has been no real commitment to reparations and to truth and reconciliation for people of African descent,” the report said, adding that “impunity for State violence has resulted in the current human rights crisis and must be addressed as a matter of urgency.”

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