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Father of unarmed man who was fatally shot by El Cajon police files federal lawsuit

Richard Olango, whose son was killed by El Cajon police in September, spoke at a South Los Angeles news conference in October. Olango filed a lawsuit against police on Tuesday.
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

The father of Alfred Olango, an unarmed black man fatally shot by El Cajon police last year, filed a civil rights lawsuit in San Diego federal court Tuesday alleging excessive, deadly force against his son.

The lawsuit filed on behalf of Richard Olango Abuka also names Richard Gonsalves, the officer who fired the shots that killed Alfred Olango on Sept. 27.

Dist. Atty. Bonnie Dumanis last week concluded the officer was justified in the fatal shooting and would not face criminal charges. She said an investigation showed the officer reasonably was in fear of his life, based on Olango’s actions that day in the parking lot of the Broadway Village shopping center in El Cajon.

That morning, Olango’s sister, Lucy, called 911 three times, describing her brother having a mental breakdown, asking for help taking him to a hospital and later reporting him walking in traffic.

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Gonsalves arrived after the third 911 call and, within a minute of making contact, shot Olango.

Police said Olango had a hand in a pocket and would not comply with the officer’s orders to remove it. Olango suddenly took what police described as a two-handed shooting stance, swiftly removing an object from his pocket and pointing it at the officer. The officer, fearing it was a gun, fired four shots, killing Olango. The object turned out to be a vaping device.

The lawsuit, filed by Los Angeles-based attorney Rodney Diggs, claims the use of deadly force was “without justification” and accused Gonsalves of deciding to contact Olango without waiting for help from a psychiatric team first. Instead, Gonsalves “drew his firearm and aggressively confronted, chased and cornered” Olango.

It further alleges that the officer’s “cowboy attitude and demeanor provoked” Olango into taking defensive measures and that Gonsalves used those as “false justification to kill him.”

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The lawsuit also blames El Cajon police’s dispatch decisions in the incident and says the department failed to adequately train Gonsalves.

Olango Abuka, who immigrated to the U.S. from Uganda along with his son, is suing on claims of loss of familial relationship and is asking for damages to be awarded at a jury trial.

Olango’s family, with help from the Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network, are calling on the Justice Department and Gov. Jerry Brown to investigate the shooting.

El Cajon city leaders have declined to discuss the allegations, citing litigation. Other family members also are expected to file lawsuits.

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“Once matters go to court, my ability to speak on this becomes significantly limited,” El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells said Tuesday after a reporter notified him of the lawsuit.

Staff writer Karen Pearlman contributed to this report.

Twitter: @kristinadavis

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