Protests of the fatal police shooting of a Ugandan emigre at an El Cajon strip mall turned violent Thursday night, prompting the arrests of two men and the use of pepper balls by officers to disperse the crowd of about 50 to 75.
The third night of demonstrations over the death of 38-year-old Alfred Olango, which protesters maintain was unwarranted and racially motivated, started heating up around 8 p.m. in the area of North Mollison Avenue and Broadway where police said the crowd occupied the intersection.
The protesters stopped vehicles, broke car windows and knocked a motorcyclist off his motorcycle, according to Lt. Rob Ransweiler of the El Cajon Police Department.
The ECPD received numerous 911 calls about the disturbance in the intersection and a group of officers from the multi-agency composite platoon moved into the area, he said. An unlawful assembly was declared by law enforcement at the scene and notice was given to the protesters to disperse.
The protesters began throwing glass bottles at the police and after the group refused to disperse pepper balls were deployed, Ransweiler said.
Two men from El Cajon, ages 19 and 28, were taken into custody on suspicion of participating in the unlawful assembly but their names were not released.
One witness told reporters Olango had his hands raised when shots rang out, and another indicated he may have suffered a seizure. However, police said Olango was uncooperative, had repeatedly refused to remove his hand from his pocket, assumed “what appeared to be a shooting stance,” and pointed an object that turned out to be an electronic smoking device at one of the officers.
On Wednesday afternoon, demonstrators headed to where the deadly encounter played out less than 24 hours earlier, a commercial district a few blocks north of El Cajon Valley High School. A rally continued into the evening and protesters at times blocked streets and faced off with rows of officers in riot gear. The disruptions prompted the temporary closure of nearby Parkway Plaza mall.
El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells said during a late afternoon briefing that he was “completely fine” with peaceful protests is concerned about the potential for the protests to turn destructive.
Each of the officers, who had more than 20 years of law enforcement experience, were placed on administrative leave, per protocol. Police have promised a thorough and transparent multi-agency investigation. Protesters called for a federal investigation.