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Arrests of protesters at Alfred Olango shooting site in El Cajon can continue, judge rules

Alfred Olango's widow, Taina Rozier, center, and 16-year-old daughter, second from right, appear at news conference in San Diego on Thursday. Olango was killed by police in September.
Alfred Olango’s widow, Taina Rozier, center, and 16-year-old daughter, second from right, appear at news conference in San Diego on Thursday. Olango was killed by police in September.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda / San Diego Union-Tribune)

A federal judge has denied a request by protesters and the NAACP to ban law enforcement from arresting people who continue to gather at the spot where Alfred Olango was fatally shot by an El Cajon police officer.

U.S. District Judge Janis Sammartino said in her ruling Friday that there was not a legal basis to grant an injunction against law enforcement in this case. But she said she recognizes that the circumstances underlying the protesters’ request “have provoked genuine concern on behalf of all those involved.

The San Diego branch of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People, along with 11 protesters and three children, noted two instances when law enforcement broke up protests at the shooting site in the Broadway Village Shopping Center by declaring the gatherings unlawful assemblies.

Sheriff’s deputies in riot gear descended on the crowd, and people who failed to obey the order to disband were arrested. The protesterscontend law enforcement violated their civil rights.

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El Cajon police said that at one protest someone was overheard threatening to return with a gun after a fight broke out, and at the second, motorists were being stopped in the street and one vehicle’s tires were slashed.

The judge noted that protesters were allowed to gather at the shopping center several other times without being rousted by police.

“Accordingly, across a span of approximately 15 days, the court is left with only two, sharply disputed accounts of gatherings each declared an unlawful assembly,” Sammartino wrote. “Such a showing does not satisfy plaintiffs’ burden to show a ‘likelihood of substantial and immediate irreparable injury.’”

Alfred Olango, 38, was fatally shot 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 as if holding a weapon and pointing it toward the officer.

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

kristina.davis@sduniontribune.com

Davis writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.


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