LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A police officer was legally justified in shooting dead an unarmed black man in El Cajon, California, in September, and will not be charged criminally, the county’s top prosecutor said on Tuesday.
Ugandan refugee Alfred Olango was shot four times by officer Richard Gonsalves in the parking lot of a taco stand in the San Diego suburb of El Cajon after pulling a metallic vaping device from his pocket and pointing it at police.
The incident, the latest in a string of shootings of mostly unarmed black men by police, touched off days of protests and calls by activists for a federal investigation.
“After carefully reviewing the facts, the evidence and the law, we’ve determined the officer’s use of deadly force was reasonable under the circumstances and he bears no criminal liability for his actions,” San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis told reporters at an afternoon press conference.
Dumanis said the shooting was legally justified because it was reasonable to conclude that Gonsalves, a 21-year veteran of the El Cajon Police Department, believed his life was in danger from Olango.
Gonsalves and a second officer, who fired a Taser device at Olango, were both placed on administrative leave during an investigation into the incident by the district attorney’s office.
Two El Cajon police officers encountered Olango after receiving calls about a “mentally unstable” man walking in traffic. Olango’s mother later told reporters she believes her son was having a mental breakdown because of the recent death of a friend.
Police have said Olango ignored commands to take his hand out of his pocket before pulling out an object later determined to be a vaping device used to inhale nicotine. Olango assumed a “shooting stance” and pointed the device, police said. No gun was found at the scene.
Reporting by Dan Whitcomb