FBI says it may probe Anaheim police following shootings

Fri Jul 27, 2012 9:28pm EDT

Police officers from Orange County in riot gear walk towards protesters attempting to occupy the corner of Anaheim Blvd. and Broadway to demonstrate against recent police shootings in Anaheim, California July 24, 2012. REUTERS/Alex Gallardo

Police officers from Orange County in riot gear walk towards protesters attempting to occupy the corner of Anaheim Blvd. and Broadway to demonstrate against recent police shootings in Anaheim, California July 24, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Alex Gallardo

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(Reuters) - The FBI said on Friday it will consider investigating police in the city of Anaheim, following several high profile shootings by officers that have led to protests and civil unrest in the southern California city.

The announcement came the same day Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait said he had met with representatives from the U.S. Attorney's Office and the FBI. Tait has publicly called for a federal review of an officer's fatal shooting of an unarmed, suspected gang member.

Anaheim, an Orange County tourist destination known as the home of Disneyland, has been rocked by angry protests and civil unrest since that shooting on Saturday.

Protesters on Tuesday threw chairs through the windows of a Starbucks and that night they damaged about 20 businesses and the City Hall, which also had broken windows.

The FBI on Friday stopped short of saying it would open a full-blown investigation of Anaheim police regarding any officer-involved shooting in the city. Those are routinely probed by the Orange County District Attorney's office.

"All allegations involving either law enforcement misconduct or abuse under the color of law are assessed and reviewed before before federal civil rights investigations are initiated," Laura Eimiller, a spokeswoman for the FBI, said in a statement.

"The FBI will review evidence and reports by the Orange County District Attorney's Office to determine whether further federal review and/or investigation is warranted," she said.

The latest officer-involved shooting occurred early on Friday, but no one was hit.

A man in a pick-up truck accelerated toward an officer chasing a burglary suspect by foot and another officer fired toward the truck, said Anaheim police spokesman Sergeant Bob Dunn. The driver was later located and was not injured.

It was the seventh officer-involved shooting in Anaheim so far this year, and five of them have resulted in the deaths of suspects, Dunn said.

One of those occurred on Sunday, when officers shot to death a suspected gang member after he shot at them, police said.

The Saturday shooting that sparked several days of protests resulted in the death of Manuel Diaz, who police say was a gang member.

Two officers tried to approach Diaz and two of his companions in an alley. The men fled but an officer caught up with Diaz and shot him, police said. Diaz was found not to have been carrying a gun, Dunn said.

That same day, police fired pepper pellets at angry residents in the neighborhood where Diaz was killed.

"I wish to thank the United States Attorney's Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation," Tait said in a statement on Friday. "I ask that our community be patient to allow their process to run its course as we seek to learn what happened on that day as well as previous incidents this year."

(Reporting By Alex Dobuzinskis; editing by Todd Eastham)

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