Churches in El Cajon, California, hope to heal tensions between law enforcement and the black community after the shooting death of Alfred Olango last Tuesday.
The 38-year-old Ugandan refugee was killed by police after a confrontation at a strip mall Sept. 27. Days of protests followed.
Olango’s sister called police about her brother, who recently had suffered a breakdown over the death of his best friend. He was reportedly walking erratically in and out of traffic.
When police arrived on the scene, they said Olango was uncooperative, repeatedly refused to remove his hand from his pocket, assumed “what appeared to be a shooting stance,” and pointed at one of the officers an object that turned out to be an electronic smoking device that resembled the barrel of a gun.
Police then shot and killed Olango.
The incident is the latest in a series of fatal police involved shootings of black men.
Pastor Miles McPherson, with the Rock Church in San Diego, said the shooting is “heartbreaking.”
“It’s heartbreaking every time it happens anywhere in the country and then when it hits home and you see the pain and anger on your streets in your city it makes it very real, very tangible,” McPherson said.
He dedicated his sermon last Sunday to the healing needed in the community after the deadly shooting.
“There are legitimate reasons to be angry, to be hurt,” McPherson said.
“However, our response to that pain, the Bible says to be angry but don’t sin. Our ability not to sin and to respond in a way that is Christ-like is impossible in our own strength. It is only by the spirit of God that we can do these things,” he said.
“So my role Sunday, to the church and always is how can we lift you up? How does this incident, this event, these series of events, cause you to trust in God more and be more like Christ?” he asked. “Because if we miss that, we miss the whole point. We miss our whole role as a Christian to be a light in the world, to learn from it, grow from it, and to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.”
McPherson, whose father served as a police officer for more than 30 years and whose son is currently a police officer, offers a unique perspective on the issue.
“My father spent most of his career in the New York City Police Department arresting bad cops so I understand, though I have ultimate respect for police, they’re human, they make mistakes,” he told CBN News. “I believe the majority of them have great hearts.”
“I also have empathy for the community so I understand both ways and God loves all those people and he’s trying draw us close, it’s not one or the other,” he said.