Police killing of unarmed black man in San Diego sparks protest

Police in suburban San Diego have shot and killed an unarmed black man who they say pulled an object from his pocket, pointed it at officers and assumed a “shooting stance”.

One officer tried and failed to subdue the unidentified man with a stun gun before a second officer fired several times, said the El Cajon police chief, Jeff Davis. Davis would not say what the object was, but acknowledged it was not a weapon.

Before police announced the death, dozens of protesters gathered at the scene, with some claiming the man was shot with his hands raised. Police disputed the claims and produced a frame from cellphone video recorded by a witness that appeared to show the man in a shooting stance as two officers approached with weapons drawn.

This month, black men were shot and killed by police in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and in Charlotte, North Carolina, where violent protests broke out.

The El Cajon protest was angry but peaceful. Several dozen people, most of them black, gathered and some cursed at officers guarding the scene. They chanted “black lives matter!” and “hands up, don’t shoot!”

Protesters at the scene of the police shooting in El Cajon
Protesters at the scene of the police shooting in El Cajon. Photograph: Hayne Palmour IV/AP

Davis urged the community to remain calm and said the investigation would be thorough. “This will be transparent,” he said. “This will be looked at by multiple sets of eyes, and not just ours.”

Police were called to a strip mall in El Cajon shortly after 2pm by a woman who said her brother was “not acting like himself” and walking in traffic. Officers said the man refused “multiple” orders to take his hand from his pocket, and then was shot after pulling out the object.

Police say a female witness came forward and voluntarily provided cellphone video of the incident. Authorities did not release the video, only the single frame from it. El Cajon officers do not wear body cameras.

Other videos quickly surfaced showing the aftermath. In one posted on Facebook, an unidentified woman is heard telling police at the scene that the man was ordered to take his hand out of his pocket.

“I said: ‘Take your hand out your pocket, baby, or they’re going to shoot you.’ He said ‘no, no, no,’” the woman said. “When he lifted his hand out … he did have something in his hand but it wasn’t no gun, and that’s when they shot him.”

People embrace at the scene of the police shooting in El Cajon
People embrace at the scene of the police shooting in El Cajon. Photograph: Hayne Palmour IV/AP

Another woman on the video who was wearing hospital-style work clothing said she was the man’s sister. She appeared distraught, repeatedly shrieking and crying, telling officers that she had called them to help her brother, whom she described as having mental problems.

“I just called for help, and you came and killed him,” she said.

Michael Ray Rodriguez was among the witnesses who said the man had his hands in the air. He said he had been driving out of his apartment complex and saw a shirtless black man with his hands raised.

The officer “let go of the trigger and shot him again and again”, Rodriguez told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

El Cajon is about 15 miles north-east of San Diego and has a population of about 100,000. It is 69% white and 6% black, according to 2010 census figures.



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