Fatal police shooting stirs 3rd night of protest

Associated Press Modified: July 24, 2012 at 1:31 am •  Published: July 24, 2012
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ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — The densely packed neighborhood where police shot to death an unarmed man this weekend and angry residents faced off with authorities in fiery clashes is just a few miles up the road from Disneyland, but a world away from the theme park's shine and shimmer.

With another officer-involved killing Sunday, involving a man who allegedly shot at police, residents of this city of 336,000 are questioning what made officers resort to deadly force and crack down on demonstrators by firing pepper ball and bean bag rounds.

The killings take the tally of officer-involved shootings to six so far this year, up from four a year before, said police Sgt. Bob Dunn. Five of those were fatal.

"It concerns me when we have any officer-involved shooting," said Police Chief John Welter, adding that he believes an uptick in gang-related crime in the last eight to 10 months is driving the increase.

"There just seems to be a lot more violence between the gangs. As a result, we've increased our gang unit, which has increased our contact with gang members," he said.

Anaheim is a city of contrasts that ranges from upscale hilltop homes to packed, gritty apartment complexes. The city 25 miles southeast of Los Angeles is known as home to the Angels baseball team, and above all, to world-famous Disneyland.

Mayor Tom Tait issued a statement Monday calling on the state attorney general's office and the U.S. attorney's office to aid an independent investigation.

In the largely Hispanic, working-class neighborhood where 25-year-old Manuel Diaz was killed Saturday afternoon, residents left candles, flowers and posters blasting police.. They questioned why officers would shoot a man they said was a gang member but didn't have a gun or appear to be committing a crime.

Jose Gallardo, 30, said he was chatting with Manuel Diaz in an alley behind the complex just a few minutes before he saw an unmarked police car pull up with two officers. Gallardo said he stayed away to avoid drawing police attention until he heard two shots and went running.

"He was laying there, dead," Gallardo said, adding that he saw bullet marks in his friend's lower back and neck. "They were searching him — I was like, why are you searching him? He's dead right there."

The death sparked three nights of protests. On Saturday, demonstrators hurled rocks and bottles at officers who were securing the scene for investigators, and police responded by firing bean bags and pepper balls at the crowd.

The next morning, protesters swarmed police headquarters where the Welter held a news conference. Later that night, demonstrators set fire to a trash bin and pushed it into the street outside the apartment complex, which was still strewn with litter from the unrest.

On Monday night, Diaz's mother marched with the relatives of others killed in police shootings. Police also said trash bins were set on fire near the area where Sunday's officer-involved killing took place.

Welter said the shooting occurred after two officers approached three men who were acting suspiciously in an alleyway before running away. One of the officers chased Diaz to the front of the apartment complex.

The chief would not say what exactly led the officer to shoot Diaz, who authorities say was a known gang member. But Diaz wasn't just hanging out in the alley. He failed to heed police orders to stop and threw something on the roof of the complex that contained what officers believe to be heroin, Welter said.

"He certainly was running from police and not stopping," Welter said. "That's no justification for shooting him, so I will be interested in what the district attorney finds out."

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