SAN DIEGO (AP) — An attorney for a widow who filed a claim Thursday against a San Diego suburb where her husband was killed by police says the family wants to send a message that police across the nation must do better when dealing with people in mental crisis.
Attorney Brian Dunn announced the filing of the claim against El Cajon at a news conference attended by Taina Rozier, the widow of Ugandan refugee Alfred Olango, and his 16-year-old daughter. The claim — a precursor to a lawsuit — was also filed on behalf of a 12-year-old daughter who lives out of state.
The claim does not specify a monetary amount.
"No person would ever want to experience even a fraction of what this family has gone through," Dunn said. "Tactically speaking, we are seeking reforms."
A police officer opened fire on Olango within a minute of arriving at the scene on Sept. 27. Olango's sister had described her brother as mentally unbalanced in multiple 911 calls.
The shooting prompted days of protests.
Video released by police shows the officer approached the 38-year-old man with his gun drawn, as Olango paced in a strip mall parking lot. Olango can be seen pulling something out of his pocket and taking a "shooting stance" — wrapping his hands around a cylinder and aiming it at the officer, who then fires his gun.
A second officer fired his Taser simultaneously. The object in Olango's hands turned out to be a 4-inch electronic cigarette device called a vape pen, authorities said.
The El Cajon Police Department, like many police departments, has specially trained officers to help defuse the sometimes-volatile situations that involve people in the throes of mental illness. El Cajon officials said none were available to go to the call involving Olango.
Family members said Olango was having a mental breakdown over the death of a close friend.
Attorney Daniel Gilleon filed a separate claim Oct. 20 against El Cajon on behalf of Olango's sister, Lucy Olango. She said police were negligent in handling her 911 calls. Gilleon said she is seeking treatment for the trauma of seeing her brother killed.
The claim says deadly force was used too quickly and without warning.
Another attorney, Rodney Diggs, said he plans to file a federal claim on behalf of Olango's father, Richard Olango Abuka, for his son's death.
El Cajon city officials declined to comment.
The attorneys said the family also wants an independent investigation of the incident and expressed doubt the San Diego County district attorney's office can be impartial in its probe.
The two officers have been placed on leave.
Olango's father also attended Thursday's news conference.
"The death of Alfred Olango is a turning point in America," he said. "It's a turning point in the justice system in America. It'll be a turning point in how the policing is done in America."