The FBI has opened an investigation into the police-involved fatal shooting in Anaheim, Calif. that sparked days of unrest on the city’s streets.
The Orange County, Calif. District Attorney’s Office is also probing the July 21 incident, in which police shot and killed Manuel Diaz, who appeared to be unarmed at the time of the shooting.
Police Chief John Welter has not said exactly why the shooting occurred. But he said on the night in question, officers entered an alleyway behind Diaz’s apartment complex and approached the 25-year-old and two other men who were acting suspiciously. Diaz ran, ignoring police orders to stop, and appeared to throw a bag, containing what officers believed was heroin, onto the roof.
“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.”
Both officers were placed on paid leave pending an investigation.
But that explanation didn’t seem to be enough for the residents in the largely Hispanic, working-class neighborhood. The slaying sparked three days of protests, during which demonstrators hurled rocks at police officers, burned trash bins and other flammable objects and committed various acts of vandalism.
In response, police employed non-lethal tactics, using batons, pepper balls and bean bags on the restive crowd.
“Anaheim is a strong community and a community that works together to solve its problems,” Mayor Tom Tait said at a news conference July 25, according to The Los Angeles Times. “I think it’s important for city officials to hear from people we serve … but violence and vandalism have no part in the conversation.”
Authorities have said Diaz was a “documented gang member.” But protestors said that is no reason for killing an unarmed man.
“They are saying everywhere he was a gang member and that he deserved it,” Juan Brito, told OC Weekly. “If he was, does that give the police the right to kill him? Cops are supposed to lead by example. How are we supposed to look up to them if they keep killing people?”
The slaying of Diaz brings to six the number of officer-involved shootings in the city of 336,000 so far this year, compared to four last year, Sgt. Bob Dunn told the Associated Press.