By Doug Porter
The Rev. Shane Harris of the National Action Network called a press conference on Thursday with the family of Alfred Olango, the Ugandan immigrant killed by a police officer in El Cajon earlier this week.
They gathered before the press, accompanied by supportive clergy and a couple of power lawyers, hoping to reshape what the family believes is a false narrative about the dead man.
In recent days following the official release of a single frame photograph from a bystander video, storylines casting aspersions on the character of Olango have worked their way into media accounts. These accounts include allegations of prior run-ins with the law enforcement system and even the use of the word ‘suspect.’
Alfred Olango was never a suspect on the day he died. His sister called the police three times, as she watched her brother have an emotional breakdown over what we now know was the suicide of his best friend.
Los Angeles Attorney Rodney Diggs asserted at the press conference that, despite the woman’s pleas for help, the only question asked over the phone was about her brother’s race.
It took 50 minutes for police to respond. It took less than two minutes before Olango was gunned down.
Here’s the official spin on what happened, via the Los Angeles Times:
Two officers found the man behind Los Panchos taco shop on Broadway, near an apartment building and the Broadway Village Shopping Center.
[ECPD Chief] Davis said the man failed to comply with multiple instructions from an officer and concealed a hand in a pocket of his pants. The officer brandished a gun and continued to give the man commands.
A second officer got there and brandished a stun gun.
At one point the man took out an object from the front pocket of his pants, grasped it with both hands, and “extended it rapidly toward the officers” as he stood in a position that suggested he would shoot, Davis said.
Attorney Dan Gilleon told the press that earlier reports about Olango being chronically mentally ill were simply untrue. He also pointed out that the officer who pulled the trigger, Richard Gonsalves, had been demoted from being a Sergeant.
The demotion followed disciplinary hearings triggered by the officer texting a picture of his genitals to a subordinate female. As it turns out, the picture was just one in a series of harassments over the course of a year aimed at the woman, who happened to be a married lesbian.
Gilleon said the decision of the El Cajon Police Department to demote rather than fire officer Gonsalves was evidence of the “cowboy” mentality responsible for his quick decision to shoot Olango.
Then things got emotional. With Olango’s daughter Sherrie openly weeping nearby, Pamela Benge, mother of the decedent took the microphone.
From Fox 5:
“My son (was) a good, loving young man, only 38 years old,” she said. “I wanted his future to be longer than that. I wanted him to enjoy his daughter.”
The grieving mother noted that her family had come to the United States 25 years ago to escape armed conflict in their homeland.
“We have come from a war zone,” she said. “We wanted protection. That’s why we’re here. … There are millions of refugees that are here, just searching for a better place. … I thought a lovely nice country like this would protect us, we just need protection, that’s all. My son … he (didn’t) kill anybody.”
She said the police shooting of her son has forced her to feel pain similar to what she felt in the midst of war in Uganda.
“There is nothing as painful,” said Benge, referring to the death of her son. “Pain, it is so much that you cannot swallow it but the pain overweighs you. It is so bitter.”
The grief-stricken mother thanked the community for their support. She said that those who plan to continue protesting in response to her son’s shooting should do so in a peaceful and non-violent manner.
“I’m always for peace, I don’t want war. If you have seen war, you will never, ever want to step near where there is war,” she said.
Rev. Harris called for a National Day of Unity demanding justice in the death of Alfred Olango. A San Diego area event is scheduled for Saturday at 10am on East Main Street in El Cajon. (I’m waiting on confirmation before I publish an address.)
The central issues behind the protests are a demand for the entire bystander video of the shooting to be released and the Justice Department be brought in to lead the investigation into circumstances surrounding the death of Olango.
The Union-Tribune editorialized in favor of releasing the video:
Yet two points need to be made immediately. The first is that it is unacceptable for a police department to selectively release information to try to frame a lethal incident in as favorable a light as possible. The release of a single still image from a cellphone video of Olango’s deadly encounter with police shows him posing as if he has a gun and pointing toward officers. The public needs to see the entire video, not be pushed to judgment.
The second is that in general, too many people in America die at the hands of police. The Supreme Court’s 1989 ruling in the Graham v. Connor case says officers may use force depending on the “severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, and whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight.”
The demand for Justice Department involvement underscores a sense among civil rights activists that local prosecutors can not be trusted to investigate local police. An inewsource story in January revealed that County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis found no wrongdoing in all of the 155 cases involving the use of deadly force by law enforcement dating back 11 years.
Post Script: A Really Gross Lawsuit
Attorney Dan Gilleon is suing the City of El Cajon over the sexual harassment case. Here’s an excerpt from his filing, just so readers will know more about the character of the ECPD and the officer who shot Alfred Olango:
Gonsalves committed the sexual harassment, partially described in paragraphs 3 and 5, even though he knew Officer Greer was a sexual assault survivor who suffered from PTSD.
Gonsalves knew that, as a very young officer at the Escondido Police Department, Greer had experienced a horrific sexual assault when another older officer, Ron Collins, began masturbating in the passenger seat of a parked patrol car while Officer Greer was in the driver’s seat.
Gonsalves knew that Collins had pulled Officer Greer’s hand toward him to touch his penis.
Gonsalves also knew that, later, Officer Greer had been forced to draw her service weapon on Collins when he had reacted violently after being forced to resign from the Escondido Police Department.
Gonsalves also knew, because Officer Greer had told him, that because of the retaliation she faced by Collins and others, she never wanted to file another sexual harassment complaint
The lawsuit alleges that ECPD allowed Gonsalves and others to harass the plaintiff even after the disciplinary hearings. If you really want to be grossed out, and understand just how full of baloney the ECPD really is (despite “their we want to get to the bottom of this” statements) read the whole damn lawsuit.