Mother of black man shot by cops speaks of her anguish

Julie Watson and Brian Melley
Associated Press

El Cajon, Calif. — The anguished mother of a man killed by police in a San Diego suburb said she could not believe her family left violence-wracked Uganda only to have her son shot to death in the United States.

“We have come from a war zone,” Pamela Benge, mother of Alfred Olango, said through sobs, wearing large dark glasses to cover her tears. “We wanted protection. That’s why we’re here… I thought a lovely nice country like this would protect us, we just need protection, that’s all.”

Benge said at a news conference Thursday that she had grieved and prayed for other parents who had lost children in recent shootings by police in the U.S., but “didn’t know that the next time it would be me.” She now understands their suffering.

“There is nothing as painful,” she said as family members stood nearby wiping tears from their eyes. “It is so much that you cannot swallow it. You try to swallow it, but the pain overweighs you. It is so bitter.”

Alfred Olango’s family gathered with lawyers and religious leaders and urged people to continue demonstrating but implored them to do it peacefully to honor his memory.

Thursday’s third night of protests, however, were more violent and destructive than gatherings on the previous two nights.

Between 50 and 75 people marched through streets and blocked intersections until police had to use pepper-spray balls to break them up.

Some got into fights with drivers who were angry over blocked traffic, at times breaking car windows and in one case pushing a man off his motorcycle, police said. Some threw bottles at police.

Two men, ages 19 and 28, were arrested for failing to end an unlawful assembly, police said.

Olango, who is black and came to the U.S. from Uganda in 1991, was unarmed when he was killed. But police say he failed to put his hands up and comply with orders, finally pulling an e-cigarette device from his pocket and pointing it directly at the officer who shot him.

El Cajon police released a still image from the video of Olango grasping the object in both hands and aiming it at the officer.

The family urged authorities to release the entire video of the shooting. A lawyer representing them said that authorities were misinforming the public by only showing the single image.

“It’s a wonderful way if you’re litigating a case in the media,” attorney Dan Gilleon said. “It fits a perfect narrative for them.”

The El Cajon mayor defended the decision to release the single frame, saying it accurately represented the situation the two officers faced.

“I thought it was way too incendiary to not release something,” Mayor Bill Wells said.

Wells said he reached that decision with the police chief and District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis to release the image to counter reports from people saying Olango had his hands in the air and was begging not to be shot.

Wells said he met with leaders of the black community Thursday who told him releasing the video immediately could help prevent violence. Wells said he wants to talk to the district attorney to discuss why the video should not be released immediately.

The San Diego district attorney’s office, which controls when videos of officer-involved shootings are released, said there is no time frame for when it will release the video.

The fatal shooting happened less than two weeks after black men were shot and killed by police in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Charlotte, North Carolina, where violent protests broke out.

Police in both those cities have released videos of the shootings.

When Olango arrived as a refugee in 1991 and was twice ordered deported because of a 2001 conviction for selling cocaine, U.S. immigration authorities said.

But he was released from detention after his native Uganda refused to take him. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling bars detention of foreign nationals after six months if deportation is unlikely.