American police shot dead an unarmed Ugandan who had fled his own country and was said to be mentally ill

A protest in front of the El Cajon police department.
A protest in front of the El Cajon police department.
Image: AP/Gregory Bull
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A man shot by police in southern California on Tuesday (Sept. 27) was an unarmed Ugandan immigrant, who was also reported to be mentally ill. Alfred Olango, 38, was shot dead in the San Diego suburb of El Cajon, after his sister called the police saying that her brother had mental health problems and was acting out.

Police say Olango refused to comply with the orders of the two officers who arrived on the scene. He had one hand in his pocket and refused to show both hands, according to a police statement. During a standoff with police, Olango removed an “object” from his pocket, took a “shooting stance,” and pointed towards one of the officers. Both police officers then struck Olango simultaneously: one with a Taser stun gun, the other shooting and killing him.

Police later said the recovered object was an electronic smoking device.

Olango’s family had fled Uganda in 1991 as refugees from the regime of president Yoweri Museveni, according to court records obtained by a local TV news station. He also had a long criminal record; it’s not clear if police knew that when they confronted him.

A video recorded by a bystander at the shooting scene, and posted on Facebook, shows Olango’s sister in shock. “Why couldn’t you tase him? I told you he is sick, and the guys shot him,” she tells officers. “I called police to help him, not to kill him.”

Bill Wells, the mayor of El Cajon, said police took an hour to respond to the emergency call. Wells said the two officers were sent to the scene because there were none available who had training in handling mental health cases. In line with the department’s policy, the two were put on administrative leave pending an investigation. A crowd of “several hundred” marched in protest at Olango’s killing in El Cajon the following day, according to local TV.