By Rebecca Williamson and Miriam Raftery
Photo, left,by Rebecca Williamson: Marchers at Mollison near Broadway
September 28,2016 (El Cajon) – Parkway Plaza regional shopping center is shut down for tonight after protests spilled into the mall over yesterday’s fatal police shooting of Alfred Olango, 38, an unarmed African-American man with mental health issues. Marketing director Ken Gray told ECM the mall shut down for the night on advice of police.
“ Where I work, a lot of people were crying and screaming,” Gage Miller told East County Magazine shortly after police evacuated the Walmart store where he works and escorted everyone outside. He said around 3 p.m., “lots of people were marching in the mall and going into the movie theatre…Walmart had to put its gates down. Protesters were spraying water from water bottles all around.”
Despite the chaos and not knowing if he will be paid for his shift, Miller said, “Our First Amendment right is to protest. As long as it’s non-violent, I believe they, the protesters, did the right thing.” (photo, right: Miller and friends outside El Cajon Police Station later.)
A young man who was inside the movie theatre watching “Blair Witch” told ECM he was alarmed when told to evacuate, hearing sirens and glass breaking. He indicated jewelry stores were hastily covering display cases as officers led everyone outside.
An employee at Downtown Café restaurant told ECM that the car show in downtown El Cajon has been cancelled tonight, though the restaurant plans to remain open.
Two El Cajon police officers responded to a call reporting Olango, who has a history of mental illness, was acting erratically. According to police, he refused to obey instructions and pulled something out of his pocket, then assumed a shooter’s stance. A photo released by police supports that claim. But some witnesses have offered conflicting accounts and want video released taken by a bystander’s cellphone that police say they took with permission.
Civil rights leaders have called for a Justice Dept. investigation. Questions are being asked including why police chose lethal force and why a mental health professional was not sent out with officers given Olango’s history of mental issues.
ECM has received a tip, not yet substantiated, that Rev.Al Sharpton with the National Action Network is coming to El Cajon tomorrow with “busloads” of people. Sharpton’s Twitter feed and the NAN website have no information on this. However Rev.Shane Harris, head of NAN in San Diego, spoke out at a rally in El Cajon this morning to call for an independent investigation and other action; Harris also hosted the brother of Olango, a Ugandan refugee, on his national radio show today.
Two vigils are planned this evening, one at the site of the shooting in the 800 block of Broadway, the other at El Cajon Police headquarters, according to press releases and social media postings.