El Cajon Police Shooting: Mother Grieves Openly

Alfred Olango

As she joined her family in demanding the release of a video that showed the shooting death of her son by El Cajon, Calif., police, Alfred Olango’s mother said she could not believe her family left violence-wracked Uganda only to have her son shot to death in the United States.

“We have come from a war zone,” Pamela Benge, mother of Alfred Olango, said through sobs, wearing large dark glasses to cover her tears. “We wanted protection. That’s why we’re here… I thought a lovely nice country like this would protect us, we just need protection, that’s all.”

Benge said at a news conference Thursday that she had grieved and prayed for other parents who had lost children in recent shootings by police in the U.S., but “didn’t know that the next time it would be me.” She now understands their suffering.

“There is nothing as painful,” she said as family members stood nearby wiping tears from their eyes. “It is so much that you cannot swallow it. You try to swallow it, but the pain overweighs you. It is so bitter.”

His family gathered with lawyers and religious leaders and urged people to continue demonstrating but implored them to do it peacefully to honor his memory.

Rev. Shane Harris, of the National Action Network’s San Diego chapter joined Benge and the rest of Olango’s family in saying the video of the shooting should be released by law enforcement authorities. So far, police have only released a still image of a cellphone video taken at the scene showing Olango in a shooting stance as officers aimed their weapons at him. After he was shot, Olango was found only to have an electronic smoking device on him.

“We are here to address the injustice … and we only can get a photo, but yet the country is begging for a video,” Harris said, according to the San Diego Union Tribune. El Cajon’s mayor, Bill Wells has said the video only shows about 20 seconds leading up to the shooting and only about a few seconds after.

The still photo, he said was released to dispel what he called misinformation that Olango’s hands were in the air. But lawyers for the family balked at that.

“That’s the image they want you to see … because it allows all the talk show hosts and experts to talk about what happens when you take your hands out of your pocket and act like you’re shooting a gun,” Dan Gilleon, an attorney serves as an advisor for the family, said. “It’s the perfect narrative for them.”

Olango came with his family to the United States in 1991, escaping a violent civil war there that is still going on. Friends say he was reeling over the death of a close friend a few days earlier, but Gilleon insists that he was not mentally ill.

“Alfred was not mentally ill. He was going through a mental emergency – a mental breakdown – because he had lost someone he loved dearly. We all go through a bad day,” Gilleon said at a news conference.

Meanwhile, a third night of protests on Thursday, were more violent and destructive than gatherings on the previous two nights.

Between 50 and 75 people marched through streets and blocked intersections until police had to use pepper-spray balls to break them up.

Some got into fights with drivers who were angry over blocked traffic, at times breaking car windows and in one case pushing a man off his motorcycle, police said. Some threw bottles at police.

Two men, ages 19 and 28, were arrested for failing to end an unlawful assembly, police said.

With AP