By Paul Kruze
August 29, 2017 (El Cajon) -- The El Cajon police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man last year will still have to face a civil lawsuit filed on behalf of Richard Olango Abuka, the father of the shooting victim, according to a San Diego Union-Tribune article published on August 25. At the same time, U.S. District Court Judge Cynthia Bashant dismissed the City of El Cajon from the case, saying that there was not enough evidence to argue that the department’s policies or decisions may have in some way contributed to Alfred Olango’s death.
Olango’s father had argued that Officer Richard Gonsalves used excessive and unreasonable force when he fired on his son and also failed to request medical aid for the dying man. He is suing on claims of familial relationship with his son and is asking for damages to be awarded at a jury trial.
San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, who has since retired, ruled last January that the shooting of Alfred Olango by Gonsalves was justified and so Gonsalves would not face criminal charges. Dumanis said that the law recognizes that police are often forced to make split-second decisions “in circumstances that are tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving. “As prosecutors we have the duty to follow the law and only charge individuals when we have proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” Dumanis said at a news conference where she announced her decision. “As prosecutors we have an ethical duty to follow the law and only charge individuals when we have proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The only reasonable conclusion was the officer’s actions were justified.”
For over a week after the shooting, hundreds of protestors poured into the streets of El Cajon , denouncing the shooting as what some viewed an over-aggressive treatment of Olango by police amidst claims that he had been targeted because of his skin color and that Officer Gonsalves took an overly aggressive approach to a person in a mental health crisis. (Not related to the shooting, months earlier, Gonsalves had been demoted months earlier by Davis because of allegations of sexual harassment and lawsuits filed by women officers on the El Cajon Police Department force.)
Concerned with the violent aftermath of a similar police shooting of an unarmed black man in Ferguson, MI, nearly a year before, City of El Cajon Police Chief Jeff Davis requested reinforcements from the County of San Diego Sheriff Department to subdue the crowds which gathered near the place of the shooting.
According to police and court filing accounts, Olango, 38, a refugee from Uganda, experienced a mental breakdown on the morning of September 27, according to his sister. Olango’s sister said that she had called 9-1-1 three times for helped and reported his strange behavior which included him wandering in traffic.
When Gonsalves found Olango, he was seen pacing in the parking lot of the Broadway Village shopping center on the 700 block of Broadway near N. Mollison, east of the Target store. Officers on the scene believed he was armed with a weapon which was later revealed to be an e-cigarette vaping device.
Dumanis, in a letter to El Cajon Police Chief Jeff Davis, revealed that tests showed that Olango had both cocaine and alcohol in his system at the time of his death. Cellphone and security camera video released show Olango pulling a shiny object from his front pants pocket and aiming it at Gonsalves, who in turn, fired his gun four times fatally wounding Olango. Another police officer shot a Taser at the same time.
Olango had immigrated to the United States from Uganda and had reportedly had encounters with local law enforcement before the shooting and was set twice to be deported by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement because of previous drug and firearm convictions.
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