EL CAJON, CA — East San Diego County is bracing Wednesday for protests after a black man was shot and killed by an El Cajon police officer Tuesday afternoon.
The man was behaving erratically and pulled his hand from his pocket in a manner that suggested he was drawing a weapon, the police chief said Tuesday. Immediately after the shooting, protesters gathered. The aftermath was recorded in a Facebook Live video from the scene, which showed a woman who claims to be the slain man’s sister getting emotional.
The woman says she told him 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.”
The video has been viewed 74,000 times in the last 20 hours.
Police Chief Jeff Davis said an officer responded to a strip mall in the 800 block of Broadway about 2:30 p.m. Tuesday after a caller reported that a “man was not acting like himself.” Davis said the officer arrived to find an African-American man acting erratically, “walking in traffic, not only endangering himself but motorists.”
Davis said when the officer attempted to make contact with the man, the man allegedly did not comply when repeatedly asked to remove his concealed hand from his pants pocket.
Because he did not comply with the officer, Davis alleged, another officer arrived on scene. When the man still not did not comply, Davis said, the second officer prepared to use his Taser while the first officer covered him.
“At one point the man rapidly drew something out of his pocket” and stood “holding the object at shoulder level in a shooting stance,” Davis said.
The second officer discharged his Taser.
“Simultaneously, the officer who had the object pointed at him discharged his firearm on the male,” Davis said.
The officers provided medical aid to the man until paramedics arrived and transported the man to a local hospital with life-threatening injuries. The man, whose name was not provided by police, died at the hospital. He was in his 30s, and police believe the person who initially called police may have been his sister. At publication time, police had not been able to reach her again and therefore did not want to release the man’s name until his family members were properly notified.
Davis did not say what the object pointed at the officers was, but he did say a firearm was not found at the scene.
Bystanders reported hearing about five shots.
The officers involved in the shooting, who both have more than 21 years of law enforcement experience, will be immediately placed on a three-day, paid administrative leave while the investigation of the shooting continues.
Davis said the El Cajon Police Department’s Robbery/Homicide Team is investigating the shooting. Investigators from the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office were also at the scene, he said, and will review the completed police investigation, as will the FBI.
“Now is the time for calm,” Davis said. “Now is the time to allow the investigation to shed light on this. Now is the time for the community to work with us and provide us with any information they have.”
Several witnesses alleged that the officers were unduly quick to open fire and suggested that their actions had been influenced by the fact that they were dealing with a black man, one they described as mentally challenged.
One man angrily told reporters at the news conference that the victim was suffering a seizure prior to the shooting, and another described seeing him with his hands raised at the moment the shots sounded.
Davis said the man did not have his hands up.
A crowd of protesters that grew to about 30 people in the early evening arrived at the shopping center and later went to police headquarters.
Many of them shouted angrily and profanely about what they characterized as a racially motivated police shooting, and others took part in impromptu prayer circles.
Officers did obtain one cellphone video from a witness, whom Davis said signed a waiver allowing police to review the video.
Investigators have since been able to download the video.
“This was the only phone provided to officers in this investigation,” according to an El Cajon Police Department news release. “No other phones were taken from witnesses. Investigators are reviewing the video and other video recovered from the scene. All video recovered so far in this investigation clearly shows the incident as described above.”
Davis said “in light of what is going on nationally,” he assured “there will be many sets of eyes on this investigation.”
“Let’s set an example,” Davis said. “This is a tragic event. We will all work through this and the truth will come out … ”
Pastor Miles McPherson of The Rock Church in San Diego joined the chief for the press conference Tuesday night.
“Our prayers go out to the victim’s family,” McPherson said. “This is very painful to me. It is very personal. I am a black man and feel the pain on both sides whenever this happens in our country. My father was a police officer, my son is a police officer … No matter what you believe happened or think happened, pray for our community. What is happening across the country with innocent people being shot and protesters being shot, we don’t want that to happen in our community. We want to pray that God would be honored in the process and that we all work together to make that happen.”