On Saturday July 21, two police officers of Anaheim shot and killed unarmed 25-year-old suspected gang member Manuel Angel Diaz.
The police reported that three men surrounding a car on Anna Drive around 4 p.m. fled on foot when approached by officers. After he allegedly threw miscellaneous items onto rooftops as he ran, the victim was first shot in the leg, bringing him to the ground, and then, eye witnesses said, shot in the head.
Taken to the hospital, Diaz was pronounced dead at 7 p.m. Neighbors were outraged by Diaz’s death, and their ire would only be compounded.
Community members, including children, gathered at the site where Manuel Angel Diaz was brought down to demand an explanation of the shooting. Police arrived, emotions flared, tensions escalated, and rocks and bottles were thrown at the surrounding responders. Officers retaliated by firing beanbags, rubber bullets and pepper spray at the crowd—not excluding the kids.
Video taken at the scene captured a police dog tearing across a woman holding an infant in her arms and mauling a seated man. Police claimed that the canine was released accidentally; but took full responsibility for deliberately shooting sub-lethal projectiles into what appears to be a gathering of concerned families.
Hundreds of angry residents flooded the streets of downtown Anaheim to exercise more than just free speech. Objects were thrown at officials, a Dumpster was set on fire, and storefront windows were smashed.
A group of children who witnessed the police reaction to a public protest later gathered to replay the melee for the camera of an inquiring adult. The kids seem to take for granted that police will storm their front yards and terrorize and intimidate their peers, including a 5-year-old girl the kids claim was shot in the eye with a beanbag.
“We need justice,” concludes one boy, to which another laughs knowingly.
The mother of the killed man appealed to the public for a nonviolent protest, but another police action further enflamed the neighborhood outrage, and the displays that accompanied it.
On Sunday, another community member, Joel Mathew Acevedo, was shot and killed by the police. Acevedo, a 21-year-old suspected gang member, was spotted in a stolen vehicle.
After being pursued by police, Acevedo purportedly opened fire at officers. One shot back, and killed him. The protests and outrage flared anew.
Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait spoke to the clashes between citizens and cops in the wake of the running violence:
Tait has called for the U.S. Federal Attorney to assist in the investigation of the shooting of Manuel Diaz. The two officers involved in Manuel Angel Diaz’s death are currently on paid leave.
However, the mayor’s appeal for federal assistance, and taking two of the cops responsible off the beat, have not been enough to satisfy community members who cite the wrongs of long-held grievances.
Many in the community claim years of continuous police brutality. A petition created to demand an investigation of both the shootings and the violent police response to the protests has collected the bulk of its 20,000-signature goal.
Two male residents killed by police in two days only scratches the surface of the distrust between law enforcement personnel and the Latino community of Anaheim. Police have shot seven community members to date this year.
If badge-sanctioned killings don’t stop, community rage won’t either.
Is the level of violence exercised by the Anaheim police department an aberration or par for the course in America? Tell us in the COMMENTS.