An unarmed black man was pointing a silver vape smoking device at police when officers shot and killed him in southern California, authorities said, triggering two nights of protests.
Alfred Olango, a 38-year-old Ugandan immigrant who activists and friends described as mentally ill, was killed on Tuesday in the San Diego suburb of El Cajon. Demonstrators have demanded a federal investigation into his death.
The shooting came just as racially charged anger over similar incidents in two other U.S. cities during the past two weeks had started to subside.
Two El Cajon police officers confronted Olango, whom callers to police said had been acting erratically and walking in traffic. One of the officers opened fire with a pistol and his partner simultaneously fired a Taser stun gun when the man pulled an object from his pocket and aimed at them in a “shooting stance,” police said. No gun was found at the scene.
Late Wednesday, police said in a statement that Olango had been pointing a vaping device.
Lieutenant Rob Ransweiler, a spokesman for the El Cajon Police Department, said Olango was holding the box-like end of the device in his hand while leveling its mouthpiece, a silver cylinder measuring about 1 inch in diameter and 3 inches long, at the officers.
“The vape was collected as evidence from the scene,” Ransweiler said in the statement.
Friends and activists said Olango, who had convictions for drug and weapon offenses, was mentally ill and may have been suffering a seizure in the moments before his death.
Police said they obtained cellphone video of the shooting from a bystander, but authorities released only a still frame showing two officers pointing weapons at a man who was aiming an object at them.
In a separate video taken after the shooting and posted on social media, a woman who said she is the victim’s sister is heard crying, “Oh my G-d. You killed my brother. I just called for help and … you killed him.”
El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells told reporters on Wednesday he had seen the footage obtained by police and it was heartbreaking.
“I saw a man who was distraught, a man who was acting in ways that looked like he was in great pain, and I saw him get gunned down and killed,” Wells said. “If it was my son I would be devastated.”