Alfred Olango's mother: 'He wasn't mentally ill'

Posted at 2:58 PM, Sep 29, 2016
SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- The mother of a man shot dead by police tearfully addressed the public Thursday, describing the son she lost and saying that he was not mentally ill, but was suffering from a momentary mental breakdown over the death of his best friend.
"He needed someone to just come and calm him down," Pamela Benge said at a news conference where she was joined by other family members, attorneys and local church leaders.
"My son was a good, lovely young man," Benge said. "Only 38 years old. I wanted it to be longer than that."
Alfred Olango, a refugee from Uganda, was shot by police Tuesday outside a restaurant in the Broadway Village Shopping Center in El Cajon. Police said Olango was uncooperative, repeatedly refused to remove his hand from his pocket, assumed "what appeared to be a shooting stance" and pointed an object. The object turned out to be an electronic smoking device.
His mother said reports that her son was mentally ill are incorrect -- that he was having a momentary breakdown while trying to deal with the death of his best friend. 
"He had no gun - he was not mental," Benge said. "He was just having a mental breakdown. There is a difference."
The incident has sparked protests and community leaders are calling for a transparent investigation, including the release of witness cell phone video that is now in the hands of the San Diego County District Attorney's Office. A still image from the video was released, but many want to see the full clip.
"If they wanted to, they could release that video and so many questions could be answered," San Diego Attorney Dan Gilleon, who is representing the family, said at Thursday's news conference. "Instead, they cherry picked an image of Alfred in a stance with an officer. That's the image they want you to see."

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.

El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells spoke one-on-one with 10News Thursday morning and addressed the criticism over the release of just the still image, which shows the moment just before Olango was shot. 

"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."