Father of man fatally shot by El Cajon police establishes foundation for police reform

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 has announced the creation of a foundation for police reform, in the name of his son, who was killed by El Cajon police last month.

Richard Olango said San Diego would be the headquarters of the Alfred Olango Justice and Unity Foundation “for the whole world.”

The foundation has been registered as a nonprofit organization in California, he said Saturday at a gathering held at the World Beat Center in Balboa Park.


The event, called the International Day of Remembrance for Victims of Police Brutality, drew about 90 people.

They heard from the Rev. Shane Harris of National Action Network San Diego; Shakina Ortega, whose husband was killed by San Diego police; and Robert Branch, who videotaped himself being choked unconscious by a plainclothes sheriff’s detective.

Olango said he plans to work to improve police training in areas of psychology, human behavior, criminal justice and discipline.

“These are the foundation of police training,” he said. “If you don’t pass these, you go back to police college.”

Alfred Olango, 38, was fatally shot in September by El Cajon police Officer Richard Gonsalves on Sept. 27. Cellphone and security camera video caught the brief encounter and showed Olango with his hands clasped together pointing toward the officer.

Authorities said Olango had grasped a vaping device with a silver cylinder, and the officer thought it was a gun.


“Police are supposed to use a gun as a last resort,” Richard Olango said. “From the time police arrived to the time my son was dead was 1 minute and 29 seconds.”

Other members of Alfred Olango’s family were present at Saturday’s gathering, including his mother, Pamela Benge. She told the crowd, “I don’t want any mother to go through what I am going through.”

The Olango shooting sparked violent protests in the working-class city of 100,000.

Branch was accompanied Saturday by his attorney, Dan Gilleon, and said he couldn’t talk about his upcoming trial on charges related to his scuffle last year with the deputy.

Branch, who worked as a security guard at the time, had gotten into a freeway traffic incident with the deputy, who was in an unmarked car and followed Branch to Del Cerro.

Branch told Deputy Paul Ward, now retired, there was no reason to arrest him and tried to fend him off, authorities have said. Branch recorded Ward’s arm around his neck in a chokehold until he became unconscious and dropped his cellphone.

“I am happy to be here, happy to be alive,” Branch said.

Ortega said San Diego police gave several versions of the 2012 encounter that ended with the death of her husband, Victor Ortega. He was shot during a struggle with Officer Jonathan McCarthy, who told investigators Ortega tried to grab his service pistol.


“I had to dig through all the lies they told me,” she said of police. “You have to fight for justice, for what’s right.”

Harris said many families have been affected by the deaths of loved ones at the hands of police.

“We’re going to unite these families,” Harris said. “We’ll make sure they don’t have to walk alone.”

To read the article in Spanish, click here

Repard writes for the San Diego Union Tribune