|Page (1) of 1 - 07/23/12||email article||print page|
Deadly officer-involved shooting in California stirs protests for a second night
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) After two nights of angry, violent and fiery clashes with police over the shooting death of an unarmed man, residents in a working-class, Anaheim neighborhood gathered Monday around a makeshift shrine of pink daisies, candles and beer bottles to remember him as a friendly guy.
Quiet had returned to the apartment complex a few miles from Disneyland, but many people in the largely Hispanic community wondered aloud what would make police fire on a man who authorities said was a gang member but didn't have a gun or appear to be committing a crime in broad daylight in a fenced-in-section of yard.
Jose Gallardo, 30, said was chatting with Manuel Diaz in an alley behind the complex on Saturday afternoon just a few minutes before he saw an unmarked police car pull up carrying two officers.
Gallardo said he stayed away to avoid drawing attention from police until he heard two shots and went running.
"He was laying there, dead," Gallardo said, adding that he saw bullet marks in his friend's lower back and neck. "They were searching him I was like, why are you searching him? He's dead right there."
The death of 25-year-old Diaz sparked two nights of protests. On Saturday, angry demonstrators hurled rocks and bottles at officers who were securing the scene for investigators and police responded by firing bean bags and pepper balls at the crowd.
The next morning, protesters stormed a news conference at police headquarters. Later that night, demonstrators set fire to a trash bin and pushed it into the street outside the apartment complex, which was still strewn with litter early Monday from the unrest.
Police Chief John Welter said the shooting occurred after two officers approached three men who were acting suspiciously in an alleyway before running away. One of the officers chased Diaz to the front of the apartment complex, where the shooting occurred.
Welter would not say what led the officer to shoot Diaz, who authorities say was a known gang member. Under standard procedure, both officers were placed on paid leave pending an investigation.
"That area is a known gang neighborhood," police Sgt. Bob Dunn told reporters. "There has been an increase in gang violence in and around that neighborhood. And we have been recently taking more weapons out of that neighborhood."
Another deadly shooting involving Anaheim police occurred late Sunday after anti-gang officers spotted a gang member in a stolen sport utility vehicle. A brief pursuit ended when three people jumped from the SUV and ran, authorities said.
Both incidents were under investigation by the county's district attorney office, which asked witnesses to come forward with any information or video footage of Saturday's shooting.
Online court records show Diaz was convicted last year of drug possession, and three years earlier of possessing a firearm on school grounds and being a member of a criminal street gang.
On Monday, residents remembered him as a young man who was friendly to people in the neighborhood. Several neighbors stopped to read posters affixed to a fence near the spot where Diaz was shot. The signs read, "another person dead' and "stop killing, start protecting."
Junior Lagunas, 19, had his forearm wrapped in white bandages and a hospital identification bracelet around his wrist as he recovered from being bit by a police dog during the Saturday night melee.
Lagunas said he went outside with his girlfriend and 1-year-old son to observe the commotion when police began firing something, possibly bean bags, at the crowd.
He said he ducked and pushed the child, still in his stroller, to the ground, then turned around and saw a dog gnaw on his arm, leaving teeth marks and drawing blood.
"It's just crazy, the cops are going crazy on us," said Lagunas, who was also friendly with Diaz.
Video captured by a KCAL-TV crew showed a chaotic scene as some people ducked to the ground and others scattered screaming. A man is seen yelling at an officer even as a weapon is pointed at him. Two adults huddled to shield a boy and girl.
Meanwhile, a police dog charged at several people sitting on the grass, including a woman and a child in a stroller, before biting a man on the arm.
Police said five people, two of them juveniles, were arrested that night. Authorities said the dog accidentally escaped from a patrol car, and the incident is being investigated by the police department.
"I think anybody who watched that video, as we have, from Saturday night should be concerned," Dunn said. "And we are concerned. We are absolutely committed to transparency as a police department."
Carroll Seron, a professor of criminology at University of California, Irvine, said relations between police and minority communities are often tense and an incident such as a shooting can trigger a loud reaction.
"In lots of instances, people kind of reach a threshold where they feel their communities are a little bit under siege," she said.
The shooting in Anaheim came a year after an unarmed, mentally ill homeless man died after a violent confrontation with police in the nearby city of Fullerton. The death of Kelly Thomas sparked protests by outraged residents, criminal charges against two officers, an FBI investigation and the recall of three elected councilmembers.
Outside the Anaheim apartment complex, 23-year-old Caleb Fuentes left flowers for Diaz, a man he said was like a big brother when the two played junior varsity basketball at Anaheim High School.
Fuentes said he hadn't seen Diaz since those days but wondered if he, too, could end up like his old friend.
"If I wore baggy clothes and had a shaved head, would they shoot me, too?" he said.
Associated Press videojournalist Raquel Maria Dillon contributed to this report.