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Officer involved in fatal El Cajon police shooting was embroiled in sexual harassment lawsuit

One of the El Cajon police officers involved in the fatal shooting Tuesday of an unarmed black man is a 21-year department veteran who was demoted last year after a lawsuit.

The El Cajon, Calif., police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black man on Tuesday is a 21-year department veteran who was demoted last year after a subordinate officer sued him and the city alleging sexual harassment, according to city officials and court documents.

Mayor Bill Wells identified the officer Wednesday afternoon as Richard Gonsalves, who was accused of making unwanted sexual advances toward a female officer. At the time the suit was filed in August 2016, Gonsalves was a sergeant and supervised the plaintiff.

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Dan Gilleon, the lawyer who represented the plaintiff in the lawsuit, is now representing the family of Alfred Olango, the man who was fatally shot behind a Mexican restaurant in the 800 block of Broadway.

On Thursday, Gilleon argued that Gonsalves' past history was the reason the Police Department was not more forthcoming in the matter. The dead man's family, along with demonstrators, have demanded that the department release an eyewitness video of the incident, but police have so far only released a still image showing Olango taking a "shooting stance" just before his death.

"They're circling the wagons," Gilleon said. "This is a small police department and it's a boy's club."

Gilleon identified a second officer involved in the shooting as Josh McDaniel. City officials have not confirmed his identity, but said both officers involved are 21-year veterans.

According to officials, the second officer fired a Taser at Olango, while Gonsalves fired his pistol.

Police Chief Jeff Davis said Olango pulled an object from a pants pocket, grasped it with both hands and aimed it at officers who responded to several calls about a man who was acting erratically.

Olango was grasping an electronic cigarette, or a vape smoking device, police said Wednesday evening.

According to the lawsuit, Gonsalves texted Officer Christine Greer with lewd messages, including an "obscene and indecent photograph of his somewhat-erect penis." Other messages included propositions for sex with Greer and her wife, court documents say.

"He was her sergeant and for about a year was texting her and propositioning her for sex," Gilleon said Thursday. "You can't text your subordinate a picture of your penis. He should have been fired."

Court documents say Gonsalves texted Greer multiple times with messages like "Uhm... 3 some?" and "U r too hot! U make everybody think about sex."

Other women were also harassed by Gonsalves, according to the lawsuit.

Greer settled her lawsuit against Gonsalves and the city in November 2016. In August, Greer filed a new one, saying Gonsalves retaliated against her.

Gilleon said Olango's family will continue to press for the release of the videotape.

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"It took 15 minutes for them to respond and about a minute for them to kill him," he said. "They know they're in trouble."

Any rookie with basic training would know how to respond to such a call, he said.

"They were not responding to a crime," Gilleon said. "They were responding to a 5150, [the code for a psychiatric commitment]. The protocol is to take cover and to talk to the person and de-escalate things. They took the opposite approach. They took a cowboy approach."

Gilleon said Olango's sister called police because he was having a "mental breakdown." What they know about the situation is limited, he said, but the family told him Olango was "suffering from a mental breakdown at least partially, probably, the result of him losing a very close friend within days of this."

Olango moved to the United States from Uganda years ago, Gilleon said. He lived in Arizona, then moved to California to be closer to his 16-year-old daughter. Olango was married for 10 years, but was estranged from his wife.

Hernandez writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

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UPDATES:

11:45 a.m.: This article was updated throughout with comments from lawyer Dan Gilleon.

This article was originally published at 6:40 a.m.

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