EL CAJON -- Police opened fire on a seemingly irrational man who allegedly failed to comply with their commands at an East County strip mall Tuesday afternoon, sending him to a hospital where he later died from his injuries.
Patrol officers were responding to a report of a pedestrian behaving erratically in the 800 block of Broadway in El Cajon about 2:30 p.m. when they came into contact with the man in question in a parking lot near a fast food restaurant, according to police.
Police described him as a black man in his 30s, wearing a black tank top and blue jeans.
The unidentified man failed to follow the patrol personnel's directives, concealing his hand in his pocket, police said. A second officer arrived on scene and the man continued to ignore instructions, according to police.
"The male subject paced back and forth while the officers tried to talk to him," El Cajon Police Chief Jeff Davis said. "At one point, the male rapidly drew an object from his front pants pocket, placed both hands together on it, extended it rapidly towards the officer, taking what appeared to be a shooting stance, putting the object in the officer's face."
Chief Davis said one officer deployed a stun gun before a second officer opened fire on the man. Bystanders reported hearing about five shots.
The man is now in the hospital with unknown injuries. There was no weapon found on the man.
10News spoke with an employee, Maria Medina, at a nearby restaurant, Los Panchos.
Medina said they shut down the restaurant because the shooting happened near the restaurant's drive-through and employees were waiting inside while police were outside. She said one of her co-workers was being questioned by police and had turned over a cell phone.
We ask that the community please be careful about reacting to inaccurate information. No phones were confiscated from anyone at the scene.
An employee at a nearby hair salon inside the shopping center told 10News they heard gunfire and ran outside to see what had happened. "I heard three gunshots - there was a black man on the ground and two officers standing around him."
El Cajon police held a news conference Tuesday afternoon and said they want to assure the public that there will be a thorough investigation to determine if what happened at the scene was appropriate. The police department is in the process of beginning a body camera program, but does not yet have them in place.
A crowd of about 30 protesters gathered at the shopping center and later took their demonstration to police headquarters. Many of them shouted about what they characterized as a racially motivated police shooting, and others took part in impromptu prayer circles.
Some purported witnesses also alleged that cell phones were confiscated from bystanders at the scene. El Cajon police Capt. Frank LaHaye said no phones were taken other than the one that was voluntarily turned over by an employee at a nearby restaurant.
"This was the only phone provided to officers in this investigation," LaHaye said. "No other phones were taken from witnesses."
The American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties released a statement on the shooting.
The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties was concerned to learn of the shooting of a Black man by police officers in El Cajon earlier this afternoon.
It is too early to know many of the details of the actual shooting and what preceded it, and we hope that the El Cajon Police Department and the San Diego District Attorney provide the public with answers as quickly as possible, with transparency and accountability for all involved.
Unfortunately, there are disturbing reports from a number of witnesses that police officers confiscated cell phones from people who witnessed the shooting. Confiscating cell phones is a violation of the Fourth Amendment (unreasonable seizure without warrant or exigent circumstance) and the First Amendment (interference with the right to record in public) under the U.S. Constitution and analogous rights under the California Constitution. It is hard to see any kind of Fourth Amendment exigent circumstances at issue here.
The First Amendment issues are also significant, because by seizing phones, police would likely be preventing the dissemination of video captured by bystanders. The public has the right to film police in public places, and police officers may not confiscate or demand to view your digital photos or video without a warrant. Under no circumstances may police officers delete your photos or videos.
We will be paying close attention as the details of this situation unfold and our thoughts are with the family of the shooting victim.