The tensions in Anaheim between police and the mostly Latino local community were on full boil yesterday outside City Hall as residents expressed their frustration over a spate of recent police shootings—and the Anaheim city council voted unanimously to ask the U.S. attorney’s office to investigate the shootings.
The authorities called in about 250 riot police to deal with a crowd of protestors estimated at about 600. The riot police shot rounds of bean bags and pepper balls into the crowd, which just inflamed the crowd more. There were 24 arrests from the disturbance.
It was the shooting last week of Manuel Diaz that ignited the firestorm. Police 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, in front of witnesses.
Crystal Ventura, a 17-year-old who witnessed the shooting, told the Orange County Register that Diaz had his back to the officer and was shot in the buttocks area. Diaz then went down on his knees and 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.
The shooting prompted violent and angry demonstration over the weekend, resulting in five arrests—and in the midst of the craziness, police killed another man after a car chase. The back-to-back weekend shootings brought four days of protests and unrest. A crowd of people who had been shut out of the council meeting because of a lack of room began tossing rocks and bottles at police and ignoring warnings to disperse.
Officers formed lines to try to contain the crowd as residents set fire to trash cans, yelled at police and swarmed a Starbucks, breaking windows.
Police helicopters could be seen in the sky above—in addition to fireworks from nearby Disneyland.
The killing of Manuel Diaz and the second man on Sunday have raised the number of shootings by police officers in this Orange County city to six so far this year, up from four a year before. Five of the incidents have been fatal.
Diaz’s family filed a civil rights lawsuit Tuesday seeking $50 million in damages from the city of Anaheim and its police department, claiming he was shot while running away, said lawyer James Rumm.
But Diaz’s mother, Genevieve Huizar, called on the community to stop the violence.
“I watched as my son took his last breath. I watched as his heart stopped beating for the last time,” Huizar said, breaking into sobs. “Please, please, please stop the violence. It’s not going to bring my son back, and this is the worst thing any mother could go through.
Mayor Tom Tait said a description of the shooting of Diaz from the court papers was “unsettling.”
The police union issued a statement defending the officers involved in the shootings and said both men killed were gang members who had criminal records.