El Cajon mayor responds to outcry about release of fatal officer-involved shooting photo

Posted at 11:03 AM, Sep 29, 2016

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells is responding to criticism over the release of a still image showing the moment before an officer shot and killed an unarmed black man earlier this week.

The photo, captured from video recorded on a cell phone by a witness, shows the man, Alfred Olango, clasping his hands and pointing them at an El Cajon police officer.  

The incident has sparked two days of protests outside of a restaurant in the Broadway Village Shopping Center where the shooting took place Tuesday afternoon.  

In Wells' first one-on-one interview with local television media (watch the video for the full interview), he told 10News he acknowledges that not releasing the entire video has fueled protestors' suspicions about what led up to the use of lethal force, but said the image tells the story.

"I've seen the video," Wells said. "I think that once the video is released people are going to be very understanding of what's happening. I don't think there's going to be a lot of shock or new revelation."

Police said Olango, 38, was uncooperative, had repeatedly refused to remove his hand from his pocket, assumed "what appeared to be a shooting stance," and pointed an object that turned out to be an electronic smoking device at one of the officers.

Wells explained how the video is actually in the hands of the county's district attorney, who makes the call on whether it should be released to the public. It is not up to the mayor's office or the police department.

"All cities signed an agreement that if there was video like that it became the property of the district attorney's office," Wells said. "So the district attorney really has jurisdiction over that video and makes the decision as to whether or not it should be released."

"I think it will be released pretty quickly, but here's the problem," he added. "This is not the Oprah show, this is not television. This is real life. We've got to go through the process. The FBI will want to look at it, the district attorney will need to look at it, the El Cajon Police Department, people have to be interviewed -- it's a process. And if we bow to pressure to just release everything very quickly it could taint and damage the evidence to the point where it's not useful anymore."

Wells also issued a statement late Wednesday to address questions he was being asked about something he said in a news conference on Tuesday.
"I have been asked by several people since yesterday’s press conference if I intended to suggest by one of my responses that it is my opinion, after having watched the video, that the officer’s use of his firearm was not justified.  This was absolutely not my intent." MORE: READ THE FULL STATEMENT

The San Diego County District Attorney's Office told 10News there is no time estimate on when they will release the video, but they plan on doing so as soon as protocols are met.

"Our office reviews all officer-involved shootings in San Diego County. That doesn't mean the police agency in question doesn't do its own investigation, though," Tanya Sierra, Public Affairs Officer for the District Attorney's Office, wrote in an email to 10News.. "The role of the District Attorney's Office is to provide an independent review of all shootings and other use of deadly force, fatal and non-fatal, to determine if there is criminal liability. We do not examine compliance with the policies and procedures, ways to improve training, or any issues related to civil liability."

The District Attorney's Office provided an analysis of cases they have reviewed between 1993 and 2012. You can read the analysis here.

The Police Chiefs' & Sheriff's Association also provided their protocol for disclosure of officer-involved shooting video evidence, which is available here.