ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA — Demonstrators stormed a police department in Orange County, Calif., on Sunday to protest an officer-involved shooting that left an unarmed man dead and led to a violent clash between witnesses and police.
A crowd swarmed the Anaheim Police headquarters’ lobby Sunday as Chief John Welter held a news conference to discuss what happened the night before. The protesters chanted “no justice, no peace” and “cops, pigs, murderers” as officers stood by and watched.
Welter said two officers were placed on paid leave after one of them fatally shot 24-year-old Manuel Diaz.
He said the officers approached three men in an alleyway when they ran away. One of the officers chased Diaz to the front of an apartment complex where the shooting occurred.
Welter would not say what led the officer to shoot Diaz, citing an independent investigation by the county’s district attorney office. Police said Diaz was a known gang member.
Mayor Tom Tait said he will ask the state attorney general to assist in the probe.
“Transparency is essential. Whatever the truth is, we will own it,” Tait said.
The shooting sparked a melee in the neighborhood as some threw rocks and bottles at officers who were securing the scene for investigators to collect evidence. Sgt. Bob Dunn, the department’s spokesman, said that as officers detained an instigator, the crowd advanced on officers so they fired bean bags and pepper balls at them.
Video captured by a KCAL-TV crew showed a chaotic scene as some people ducked to the ground and others scattered screaming. A man is seen yelling at an officer even as a weapon is pointed at him; two adults huddled to shield a boy and girl. Meanwhile, a police dog charged at several people sitting on the grass, including a woman and a child in a stroller, before biting a man in the arm.
Dunn said the dog accidentally got out of a patrol car. He said he didn’t know whether police warned the crowd to disperse before firing the rubber bullets and pepper balls.
Throughout the night, police in multiple marked and unmarked squad cars attempted to control an unruly crowd gathered near the shooting scene, the Orange County Register reported.
Some in the crowd moved a Dumpster into an intersection and set its trash on fire on at least three separate occasions, while officers kept responding to move it out of the way of traffic.
Dunn said five people, two of them juveniles, were arrested during the unrest. He said gang detectives are involved in the investigation.
Crystal Ventura, a 17-year-old who witnessed the shooting, told the Register that the man had his back to the officer. Ventura said the man was shot in the buttocks area. The man then went down on his knees, she said, adding that he was struck by another bullet in the head. Ventura said another officer handcuffed the man, who by then was on the ground and not moving.
“They searched his pockets, and there was a hole in his head, and I saw blood on his face,” Ventura told the newspaper.
Dunn said he could not comment on these allegations because the shooting is under investigation.
The other two men who ran away have not been captured, but police impounded their vehicle which was abandoned at the scene, Dunn said.