police shootings

The black man San Diego cops shot was holding a vape pen, not a gun

The black man San Diego cops shot was holding a vape pen, not a gun

Alfred Olango came to the United States with his family as a refugee from Kampala, Uganda, when he was 12 years old, fleeing persecution from his native country’s new regime.

On Tuesday, El Cajon area police shot and killed Olango, 38, in the parking lot of a strip mall, when they mistook the vape pen he was holding for a gun.

Protesters gathered at the site of Olango’s shooting Wednesday night. Riot police had positioned themselves in the area earlier in the day, prepared for the possibility that a peaceful protest could spiral into an angry riot. The only scuffle broke out when a man wearing a “Make America Great Again” red cap — a trademark of Donald Trump supporters — arrived at the scene of the protest. Video shows a group of protesters surrounding the man, throwing bottles and pushing him to the ground, chanting “Fuck Trump.”

He live-streamed the incident.

Olango’s death comes amid rising racial tensions nationwide, particularly after police killed black men in Cleveland, Tulsa, Okla., and Charlotte, N.C., in recent weeks, sparking protests and riots. A bystander live-streamed the aftermath of Olango’s shooting on Facebook, which showed his sister wailing and distraught.

Olango’s sister had dialed 911 requesting emergency assistance because her brother was “not acting like himself” and endangering himself by walking into traffic.

Some news reports, quoting Olango’s friends, have suggested that he had had a seizure prior to the incident.

When police encountered Olango, they said he refused numerous orders to remove his hands from his pockets, where it looked like he was concealing an object. When he finally took his hands out, El Cajon police said, he held the vape-pen in a “shooting stance.” One officer tased him, and the other shot him multiple times.

“The object that Mr. Olango drew from his pants pocket and pointed at the officer is a vape smoking device,” police said in a statement Wednesday evening. “The vape has an all-silver cylinder … The box of the vape that was held in his grip is 4 inches by 2 1/4 inches by 1 inch.”

Olango had had a few run-ins with the law in the past and had spent time in jail; he was found in possession of drugs, driving under the influence, and selling crack. In 1998, he was convicted for burglarizing a friend’s home, stealing a bong and audio equipment.

Steven Oloya, who was in a refugee camp with Olango in the 1990s, told NBC News San Diego that Olango was a “caring” and “easygoing” man who “often helped others.” Olango, his parents, and his eight siblings, all part of the Acholi ethnic group from northern Uganda, came to the U.S. in 1991. His father worked for the former Acholi-dominated administration and feared the revenge killings being conducted under now-President Yoweri Museveni.

Olango, a father of two, had been working as a cook in San Diego and aspired to open his own restaurant one day.

Police said Tuesday that they were reviewing surveillance video and cellphone video of the incident.

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