Why is the First Choice Deadly Force

In incidents involving unarmed Black men, such as with Alfred Olango, police used deadly force. A Harvard report confirms Blacks are more likely to be killed by police than whites.


By Sheryl Estrada

A week after the police-related death of Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the death of Alfred Olango in El Cajon, California, highlights an apparent lack of expertise in police deescalating a situation without using deadly force when an unarmed Black man is involved.

Olango, 38, was shot and killed by El Cajon police officers Tuesday after a woman who identified herself as his sister called police to help him. She said he was not acting like himself.

Olango was wandering in traffic when police arrived. They claimhewas acting erratically and failed to comply.When Olango didn’t comply after an officer allegedly told him to remove his hands from his pockets, the officer drew his weapon.A second officer arrived shortly afterward, prepared to stun Olango with a Taser. Olango allegedly then pointed an “object” at the officer and took a two-hand shooting-like stance with it.

Alfred Olango (Facebook)

At the same time, officers fired their weapons one a gun, the other a Taser. Olango was hit with several bullets as well as a high-voltage Taser shock. He was taken to the hospital, where he diedTuesdayevening.

El Cajon Police Chief Jeff Davis confirmed in a press conferenceTuesdaynight that Olango was not holding a gun.

Davis said he was not making the video public due to a countywide protocol pertaining to officer-involved shootings. Police released ascreen grabof a cell phone video recorded by a witness that shows Olango pointing an object.

In a Wednesday evening press conference, police confirmed the object Olango pointed at officers was a vaping device. Richard Gonsalves, a 21-year veteran of the force, was identified as one of the officers involved.

When Olango’s sister initially called police to the scene for help with her brother, she informed authorities that he was unarmed and mentally ill.

Olango’s former girlfriend, Vicky Ellis, told the San Diego Union-Tribune he was not “mentally disabled” but rather “depressed” because on Friday, his boyhood friend and fellow African refugee, 31-year-old Bereket Demsse, suddenly died.

“He was just so depressed,” said Ellis, who spoke with him last weekend. “I’d never heard him so upset.”

Olango SurvivedIdi Amin’s Uganda

Olango was an African immigrant, coming to the U.S. from Uganda. He was born during the brutal and bloody reign of Idi Amin, who ruled from 1971 to 1979. Olango was a survivor of refugee camps and prison. His family came to San Diego more than 20 years ago. Olango’s friends told the Union-Tribune hehad settled down after having had several brushes with the law over the years. He was working as a chef in restaurants in San Diego County and the Phoenix area.

The two officers involved in Olango’s death are on administrative leave as an investigation takes place. The deceased’s family is demanding police reforms and accountability and is encouraging protesters to be peaceful. Protests continued throughout Wednesday night and partially blocked a freeway exit.

Related Story:High Court Says Black Men May Have Valid Reason to Run from Police

There are documented incidents on video where a white suspect actually did point an actual gun at police, and officers did what they could to subdue the suspect without deadly force being their first reaction.Raw Story compiled a list of such instances that have occurred.

For example, in August 2014, in San Diego, Lance Tamayo, a white man, got out of his parked car with a loaded 9mm pistol and proceeded to point it at police officers and small children playing in a local park. The police spent an hour trying to talk to him. After rushing toward the officers with his weapon pointed at them, Tamayo was eventually shot once in the stomach to put him down.

He was arrested and charged with exhibiting a firearm in the presence of peace officers. Tamayowas sentenced to180 days in jail and three years probation, along with community service.

Police Killings, Police Deaths a Public Health Issue

A paper from Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health published in December calls for police-related deaths including people killed by police as well as police killed in the line of duty to be reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by public health and medical professionals and published on a weekly basis.

“It is time to bring a public health perspective to this longstanding and terrible problem, from a standpoint that emphasizes prevention and health equity, as opposed to treating these data as if they solely belong to the police and are a matter of criminal justice only,” Nancy Krieger, professor of social epidemiology and lead author of the study, said.

“Police Killings and Police Deaths Are Public Health Data and Can Be Counted” presents data also showing that, over the past 50 years across the U.S., Blacks have faced significantly greater risk than whites of being killed by police:

In 1965, among Black and white men ages 15-34, Blacks were eight times more likely to be killed by police than whites.

By 2005, Blacks’ excess risk had declined, but was still three times higher than that of whites.

No official data from the FBI currently exist that tallies the number of law enforcement-related deaths each year in the U.S. Researchers said it should be done because the data involves mortality and affects the well being of the families and communities of those who are killed. It also establishes crucial public health information that could help prevent future deaths.

The Guardian’s “The Counted” and The Washington Post’s “Fatal Force” are projects created to track police-related deaths in the U.S.

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