Before he mastered boneless buffalo-wing and chili-fry orders as a Hooters line cook, Alfred Olango escaped war-torn Uganda.
“You know he was a refugee,” Tunda Braxton, who through tears and by her husband Charles’s side spoke to The Daily Beast about their daughter’s fiancé, who was unarmed when he was slain Tuesday in yet another deadly cop-involved shooting of an unarmed black man.
In a 30-minute video of the killing’s aftermath shot by a bystander, Olango’s sister Sarah, who had repeatedly called 911 to ask them to help her brother, cries and convulses as she describes watching helplessly as the cops who finally showed up almost immediately drew their guns on him.
The confrontation ended with one cop firing his taser at Olango while another used his duty firearm to shoot him down in broad daylight.
“I said ‘Don’t kill him, please. He needs help. He’s sick and needs help,’” Sarah says in the video.
“I called for help, not for you guys to kill him,” she said. “You killed my brother. You will pay for this.”
Sarah says in the video that despite calling 911 three times, nobody came or cared for almost an hour. “I didn’t record but I called three times for them to come help me.
“Nobody came and they said ‘Not priority.’”
It actually took cops 50 minutes to arrive to the Broadway Village Shopping Center behind Los Panchos Tacos after her calls, in which she described her brother as “not acting like himself.”
When officers arrived, El Cajon Police Chief Jeff Davis told reporters, they saw Olango “walking in traffic, not only endangering himself, but motorists.”
He continued: “At one point, the subject rapidly drew an object from his front pants pocket, placed both hands together and extended them rapidly toward the officer taking up what appeared to be a shooting stance.” That object, the police said later, was in fact a vaping device.
And Davis confirmed that there was a long delay—“almost 50 minutes”— in answering the sister’s request for help. “It did take us that long to clear officers to get out there.”
“Still non compliant,” one cop is heard saying on the recorded 911 dispatch moments before the deadly shots rang out. “Still won’t get his hand out of his pocket. Still walking all over the parking lot.”
The officer continues commanding Olango to show he’s not a threat.
“Get your hand out of your pocket,” the cop orders. “We’re behind the taco shop now. Still non-comply—” The same cop then calls out: “Shots fired. Send me an ambulance.”
A woman’s cries are heard blending with the sirens.
Later in the video, Sarah is seen wandering around and sits on a rock or leans on the Los Panchos Tacos marquis trying to get answers as to whether or not her brother is still alive. At one point, a uniformed El Cajon cop carrying a wheel of yellow police tape tells Sarah to move back.
“Ma’am, could you just step on that side for a second,” he asks her.
Sarah again shrieks in pain: “Oh my god you killed my brother. I just called for help and you came and killed him.”
In the same video, a female witness who doesn’t identify herself tells the woman who was filming that “I was here for the whole thing.
“I was telling him to take his hand out of his pockets. …I said ‘Take your hands out of your pockets or they are going to shoot you!’ and he said, ‘No, no, no.’ … When he lifted his hand out he did have something in his hand but it wasn’t no gun; and that’s when they shot him.”
While there have been no reports of officer body or dash-cam footage of the shooting itself, it was apparently captured by a quick thinking Los Panchos Tacos employee on her mobile phone. She turned that critical footage over to the investigating authorities, who have yet to publicly release it.
“It’s considered evidence,” Chief Davis said during Tuesday’s briefing.
Multiple attempts to reach the El Cajon Police Department for comment were unsuccessful. A San Diego County spokeswoman confirmed that the video could remain out of public view, citing what he called an amendment passed last year that gives the district attorney great autonomy on when and if videos are released.
“The legal rights of all parties involved must be protected, but balanced with the public’s desire to view this kind of video,” according to San Diego county’s first-of-its-kind protocol on the release of videos from officer-involved shootings.
Such videos “will not be released” until after the DA’s “independent review of the incident has been completed,” the document states. Which means that if criminal charges are brought against the officer who killed Olango, the video would only become public when it’s entered into evidence. The officers involved have been placed on administrative leave for the time being, Davis said.
“We believe we’re dealing with a shooting committed by an officer and that the public has a very strong interest in full transparency to learn what happened when a police officer uses deadly force or kills somebody,” said David Loy, legal director of San Diego’s chapter of the ACLU. “We see no reason why the video should not be released to the public immediately.”
Noting that El Cajon cops published a still photo taken from the video showing Olango’s standoff with the cops, Loy said: “If they are going to release a single, selective frame from the video we think the public has an even more compelling right and interest in seeing the video because they can’t have it both ways.”
Police stressed in a statement that the phone that captured the shooting was “voluntarily provided” to them and that the witness “gave written consent for the officers to view the video.”
The worker who shot the killing indeed “gave it to the officer,” said a co-worker, person, who asked to remain anonymous. “She volunteered it to him.”
The co-worker added that the woman who forfeited her phone is now living in fear. “She didn’t want to come to work today because she’s scared to come to work,” the person said. “All because of the video she recorded.”
The worker said that there isn’t another copy of the video beyond the clip stored in the woman’s mobile phone. “It’s just on her phone. No, she doesn’t have a copy.”
The Braxtons believe Olango experienced some sort of an episode in front of the officers after failing to take his medication to treat a “serious” mental illness.
Tunda Braxton said she wasn’t certain what kind of pills Olango had been prescribed, but that she knew her late future son-in-law was deeply disturbed.
“I don’t know what kind of medicine there is to deal that kind of hell of being a refugee from Africa,” she said. “That’s enough to make anyone crazy.”
Federal court records show that a hint of that hell, as Olango fled first to a refugee camp and then to the United States from Uganda as a child along with his family in 1991 because his father had worked for the former president of the east African country and the next president had threatened to kill them. According to a Reuters report, court documents from 2006 show that he was granted permanent U.S. residency but lost that status in 2001 after being convicted of drug charges. In 2005, he pleaded guilty to a separate charge of illegal possession of a firearm and was sentenced to three years in a federal prison.
Olango, who said he was 38 but came to the U.S. without a birth certificate, was the father of two girls. Less than 24 hours before his breakdown, The San Diego Tribune reported, a boyhood friend and fellow African refugee had unexpectedly died.
His fiancé’s family told the Beast they received the horrific news from Olango’s distraught mother.
“His mama called and told us that Tashia’s fiancé was dead,” said Charles Braxton.
Their daughter remains inconsolable.
“She can’t talk right now at all,” her mother said.
She did post on Facebook the words “Rest in peace Alfred,” along with the video showing the aftermath of his fatal encounter.
In another post, she wrote: “Alfred was a good man a great father to my son may he rest in peace taj and i will miss you. We love you so much.”