© 2021 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
News Partners

Family Of Black Man Killed By Police In California Wants Video Released


Earlier this week, an unarmed black man was shot and killed by a police officer in the San Diego suburb of El Cajon. The dead man's family is demanding that police release a cell phone video of the shooting, but so far, all that has been made public is a single still photograph. Andrew Bowen from member station KPBS has the story.

ANDREW BOWEN, BYLINE: The victim's name was Alfred Olango. He was born in Uganda and came to the United States as a refugee in 1991. His mother, Pamela Benge, spoke at a press conference on Thursday, a scene that has become all too familiar.


PAMELA BENGE: I have been seeing all this praying for all the mothers and fathers that have lost their loved ones exactly like mine. I pray that things should be different.

BOWEN: Olango's family says he suffered a psychological breakdown Tuesday afternoon. His sister called 911 for help when he began walking into traffic. She told the dispatcher he was unarmed. Police say when they arrived, Olango did not comply with their commands. They say he reached into his pocket, pulled out an object and held it in what they called a shooting stance. That's when an officer fired his gun.


SARAH: Why, why, why, why?

BOWEN: A bystander recorded the immediate aftermath on her phone. The video shows Olango's sister Sarah, who called 911, distraught.


: Why couldn't you tase him? I told you he's sick, and you guys shot him.

BOWEN: In fact, one officer did fire a Taser at Olango at the same time the other officer fired his gun. Olango was pronounced dead at a hospital. The object in his hand was a vaping pen.

Police are investigating the shooting. Part of that investigation is a cell phone video of the actual shooting that has not been made public. Less than two months ago, the county district attorney announced a policy covering videos of police shootings. El Cajon Police Chief Jeff Davis explains.

JEFF DAVIS: This is considered evidence, and until it is deemed otherwise, it will be under the control of the district attorney's office.

BOWEN: The goal of the policy, keeping these videos secret, is to not bias a potential jury. The DA did, however, release a screenshot from the video showing the officers pointing their weapons at Olango. Olango appears to have his arms stretched toward one of the officers.

Dan Gilleon is a lawyer representing the victim's family. He says the DA is selectively releasing evidence to bias the public against the victim.

DAN GILLEON: It's completely unfair for them to be using a single still image that is completely one-sided. There's a number of different questions that we have that would be answered by that video.

BOWEN: A spokeswoman for the DA's office said in a statement, the image was released to correct what she called inaccurate narratives, like that Olango's hands were raised in the air when he was shot. Olango's family, meanwhile, is calling for an independent investigation.

For NPR News, I'm Andrew Bowen in San Diego. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.