By SONYA QUICK, FERMIN LEAL, ERIC CARPENTER and CINDY CARCAMO / THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
ANAHEIM – Police Chief John Welter said Sunday afternoon that a man killed by officers was chased because of suspicious activity.
The dead man was identified by a family member as Manuel Diaz. His sister, Lupe Diaz, said Sunday that her brother was “just hanging out with friends” before he was shot. When asked what she knew that led to her brother’s death, she responded: “There is no explanation. It’s not fair.”
While the chief held a 1:30 p.m. press conference, protestors stormed the Anaheim police headquarters lobby to protest another officer-involved shooting, chanting messages such as, “No justice. No peace.” “Justice for Manuel.” and “Cops. Pigs. Murderers.” in front of a line of five police officers.
“(The Anaheim police) are not judge, jury and executioner. Nobody is given their due process,” said local community organizer Theresa Smith.
The heated tension between the community and officer was seen late Saturday night as people lit a rolling trash container on fire three times, blocked traffic and threw rocks at police. Officers fired rubber bullets and pepper spray to break up the crowd.
“It just seems like everything has gotten out of hand,” Smith said.
On Sunday, city leaders appealed to the community for calm while they continue to look into what happened.
“We will do everything we can to find the truth about what truly happened out there,” said Councilwoman Lorri Galloway.
- THE SHOOTING -
At 4 p.m. Saturday, two officers in a patrol car noticed one man leaning into a sedan talking with two men inside the car, Chief Welter said. The officers believed the activity to be suspicious and approached the suspects.
Welter said the two men in the car took off and officers chased the third man on foot and observed him throwing unidentified objects onto rooftops as he ran. What happened next, causing officers to shoot the man, was not described.
“At that time the officer-involved shooting occurred,” said Anaheim Police Sgt. Bob Dunn.
The man was taken to a hospital in critical condition, Dunn said, and died at 7 p.m. The two other men got away, he added.
Dunn said gang detectives are involved in the investigation. Police would not provide any other details and said all updates on the incident will now come from the Orange County District Attorney’s Office investigation.
Crystal Ventura, a 17-year-old who lives in the neighborhood, said she saw the shooting from about 20 feet away. She said the man had his back to the officer. She said the man was shot in the buttocks area. The man went down on his knees, and she said he was struck by another bullet in the head. Another officer handcuffed the man who by then was on the ground and not moving, Ventura added.
“They searched his pockets, and there was a hole in his head, and I saw blood on his face,” she said.
Police reportedly tried to buy any video taken by witnesses on their cell phones.
Dunn said that he didn’t know whether the allegations were true. He said it’s unclear whether it’s against Anaheim Police policy to do so but said that the agency would look into the matter.
In the past, Dunn said, that officers will ask for cell phone video as evidence, but that he doesn’t know of instances where officers would pay for it.
Daisy Gonzalez, 16, identified her uncle as the man shot by police. She and others said his name was Manuel Diaz. She said he likely ran away from officers when they approached him because of his past experience with law enforcement.
“He (doesn’t) like cops. He never liked them because all they do is harass and arrest anyone,” Gonzalez said after lighting a candle for her uncle at a Saturday night protest.
- SUNDAY PROTEST -
On Sunday morning community members gathered around a memorial of candles and hand-written notes at the scene of the shooting.
People carried signs reading “Stop the Killings,” and “You May Be Next” for a protest that led to the Anaheim police station. Fifty people – including residents from the Anna Drive neighborhood and activists from outside the city – spilled inside the police lobby.
A line of five police officers stood stoically at the door leading back to police offices and the briefing room, as protesters shouted at them through bull horns, “No justice, no peace.” And “Shame. Shame.” They marched under a sign in police headquarters and pointed out its irony – a city slogan that reads “Make Kindness Contagious.”
The protest was shown live on the Occupy Orange County UStream channel (
Doug Kauffman, 24, a Long Beach resident and organizer with the Campaign to Stop Police Violence was one of several community organizers who came out to the shooting scene Sunday.
“I think when you see a community act up like that and lose their fear of police, it’s a clear sign that they are angry over an injustice,” Kaufmann said. “A man was murdered by police on their street. Of course they are angry and are going to protest.”
Families of other people who were shot and killed by Anaheim police in recent years have been holding protests at Anaheim police headquarters each Sunday for nearly two years. Those protests led city officials last month to order an independent investigation of “major police incidents.”
Protesters outside made a chalk drawing on the sidewalk outside police headquarters with signs such as “Shame on Anaheim P.D.” And they consoled one another, sharing stories about their loved ones.
“This is so sad and so horrible to see this happen to another family,” said Theresa Smith, whose son was shot and killed by Anaheim police after his car was stopped in an Anaheim parking lot in December 2010. “I want to see resolution. And hopefully, we can turn all this negative into something positive.”
Just as the news conference was about to begin, Diaz’s family was escorted into the room along with reporters and photographers.
Lupe Diaz, 29, the man’s sister, said her brother was “just hanging out with friends” before he was shot.
“He was a bright soul. Fun. Caring. He’d never hurt a soul,” she said. “He had such a big heart.”
Manuel Diaz was 24 and was unemployed, but he had worked in offices and as a general laborer, his sister said.
When asked what she understood had happened leading up to her brother’s death, she responded: “There is no explanation. It’s not fair.”
- THE DISTURBANCE -
Hours after the officer-involved shooting, officers shot bean bags and pepper balls at a crowd of about 100 people – some throwing rocks and bottles.
Neighbors and friends demanded answers, asking for Chief Welter to show up and address the crowd.
“We were all waiting for him to come and talk to the community and give us an explanation. Why kill this man?” said Yesenia Rojas, a 34-year-old woman who lives in the neighborhood and who said she knew the man as a good person.
Dunn said the officers shot the bean bags and pepper balls because the crowd was getting too close to the officers who were trying to detain a person suspected of being with a group that attempted to throw a bottle or rock at police.
It’s unclear whether the officers gave any warning.
Rojas said she was hit, pointing to a red and purple welt on the side of her stomach.
Throughout the night, police in multiple marked and unmarked squad cars attempted to control an unruly crowd gathered near the shooting scene. Some cordoned the intersection at East La Palma Avenue and Anna Drive with the same yellow crime-scene tape used by police where the shooting happened.
Someone moved a trash container into the intersection and set its trash on fire on at least three separate occasions only to be met with multiple officers who kept responding to move it out of the way of traffic.
About 9:30 p.m., an Anaheim police helicopter hovered above the crowd while police on the ground brandished batons and other weapons at the crowd, attempting to keep order.
Some in the crowd said they had inhaled some of the pepper spray during the melee. Joel Hunt, 21, of Fullerton was in the area visiting a friend when the shooting happened. He was part of the crowd, and he said his throat was still burning from the effects of being sprayed.
Rojas said a stroller with her 1-year-old grandson was toppled over and the baby was nearly attacked by a police dog that escaped from its handler. Dunn said a police dog had accidently escaped from a K-9 officer who then tried to regain control of the dog. Dunn said there were injuries related with the escaped dog but he doesn’t know the extent, adding that this incident and melee are under investigation.
Three people were detained after the melee, but their identities were not disclosed. Dunn said it was unclear whether they were arrested.
On Sunday Elizabeth Aguilar, 19, showed a welt on her upper right arm where she said she was hit by a rubber bullet fired by a police officer at close range.
She said she watched in horror as a police dog was released and toppled a stroller on Saturday night. She raised her arm to try to hit the dog to get it away and then was struck by the rubber bullet; her dad was struck three times by rubber bullets and had to seek treatment at a hospital, she said.
“I thought they (the police) are supposed to warn us if they are about to do something like that to clear the crowd,” Aguilar said. “But they just started shooting at us.
“I used to look up to the police when I was a kid,” she added. “But now I have no respect.”
- THE COMMUNITY AND POLICE -
This shooting is the latest by the Anaheim Police Department, which is under scrutiny for several recent officer-involved shootings.
“My heart is breaking right now for the mother who lost her son last night,” said Theresa Smith whose son, Caesar Ray Cruz, was shot to death by Anaheim police in 2009. “I’m really hoping we can resolve this in a civil manner.”
City officials said they communicated about the police shooting and subsequent community melee late into the night Saturday, including conversations between police, council members and the city manager.
Galloway, who has been on the council for eight years, headed a community initiative that worked to improve conditions in the neighborhood where Saturday’s shooting took place. She said her heart ached when she saw television footage of a police dog overturning a stroller and rubber bullets being fired at community members.
“I take this very personally because I know many of the people out there and there are a lot of good people in that neighborhood,” Galloway said. “And I’ve also heard their cries about the rampant crime and the need to clean it up.
“I don’t know the context of what happened out there yet and that’s why we need to find the truth,” Galloway said.
City Manager Bob Wingeroth announced last month that the council would hire an independent investigator to look into a series of police shootings in recent years – several of which resulted in suspects being killed.
Galloway said city officials are still working to find “a truly independent investigator that can find the truth,” but progress is being made.