Several dozen people met outside of the Anaheim Police Department Sunday afternoon protesting the killing of a young man named Manuel Diaz, who reportedly fled from police officers interrupting what was described as suspicious activity with two unidentified people. Though the police have described him as a known gang member who reportedly threw unidentified materials away while being pursued, there is yet no indication that Mr. Diaz was armed, and no reason put forward by the Anaheim Police Dept. for the fatal shooting.
Residents were also protesting what they considered unnecessary and violent action by APD officers following the shooting, when many had gathered to express their outrage.
Did the Anaheim Police Department learn anything from the way Fullerton handled the killing of an unarmed man, Kelly Thomas, last summer? No and yes. No, they seem to have shot an unarmed man Saturday under murky circumstances that don’t suggest that the officers involved were under threat. And no, they evidently thought it was appropriate later that day to fire bean bags and pepper spray into a crowd that included children gathered to protest the shooting. Video from the incident shows an apparently out of control police dog attacking a man after knocking down a woman with a stroller.
But yes, Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait seems to have learned that doing nothing about it for weeks was not the best option available. Sunday he and APD Chief John Welter announced that the two officers involved in the killing had been placed on leave, and that the city has requested an investigation by the state Attorney General. The OC District Attorney’s office will also investigate.
In Fullerton it took weeks for the involved officers to be pulled from the streets. Mayor Dick Jones, recalled from office last month, never thought to hold a press conference to address the people of the city directly about the beating death of Kelly Thomas at the Fullerton Transportation Center. Instead, Dr. Jones celebrated the expansion of the city library with other elected officials and local luminaries while hundreds of his fellow Fullertonians sweated in the heat of a hot August afternoon in front of the police station next door demanding answers about why Thomas was killed.
Assemblymember Chris Norby joined the crowd Sunday, pushing a stroller with his youngest child along the sidewalk. When asked Mr. Norby said he would support reform of POBR, the Peace Officers Bill of Rights, a state law that protects police officers from pernicious investigation by their own departments, but has also been cited in recent years as an impediment to effective citizen police oversight.
Mr. Norby reportedly walked into police headquarters to speak to desk officers about a woman complaining that the Anaheim police were uninterested in her story about being shot with rubber bullets by officers the previous day.
Shortly after, most of the protesters walked into the lobby of the police department, signs and all. I’ve been at protests and I’ve been in the lobbies of police departments, but I’ve never been at a protest inside the lobby of a police department before. People shouted, loudly, some through bullhorns. Officers behind the desk didn’t look happy about it, but they didn’t do anything to stop it either. It went on for several minutes.
Later, outside again, Anaheim City Councilmember Lorri Galloway arrived. She spoke to people shot with rubber bullets Saturday, expressed general distress over the situation, and promised to get to the bottom of the story. Residents seemed unimpressed. They have been dealing with killings by police officers for years:
Justin Hertal, 2003
Joe Whitehouse, 2007
Caesar R. Cruz, 2009
David Raya, 2011
Marcel Ceja, 2011
Bernie Villegas, 2012
Roscoe Cambridge, 2012
Martine Herandez, 2012
Manuel Diaz, 2012
And just one day later, yet another person was shot to death by Anaheim police, after reportedly firing at them following a car chase.
Anaheim residents have planned a protest in front of Anaheim City Hall at 4:00 pm today, July 24.