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Anaheim police shooting protests: Mother of slain man condemns violent demonstrations

July 25, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
The mother of a man fatally shot by Anaheim police condemned violent protests against the killing, saying Wednesday she did not want her son to be remembered that way.

"The outpouring of the public has been overwhelming, we understand their pain, we understand the cries for justice," said Genevieve Huizar with tears in her eyes. "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,"

Police said there were no arrests or signs of unrest in Anaheim on Wednesday night.

On Tuesday, however, 24 people were arrested and several businesses were damaged during violent clashes between protesters and police in Anaheim over fatal officer-involved shootings.

Police say 20 businesses were vandalized. Chunks of a busted concrete garbage can were used to smash out the windows of some stores. In the shopping mall at the corner of Lincoln and Anaheim boulevards, the window at the Anaheim Cash Company was busted, and protesters also threw a shopping cart into the vacant store next door to the check-cashing business, police say. A nearby restaurant, a Vons and a Starbucks were also damaged.

The vandalism follows four straight days of protest after two back-to-back officer-involved shootings. Residents have questions on why deadly force was used.

On Wednesday, Mayor Tom Tait said the U.S. attorney's office had agreed to review the officer-involved shootings ad that he planned to meet with members of that office and the FBI on Friday.

The shootings of documented gang members Manuel Diaz, who is Huizar's son, and Joel Acevedo, happened over the weekend. Acevedo's mother was among those who addressed the City Council Tuesday night.

"I grew up trusting police officers and having respect for them, but the last few years, I've just been sickened by all the killings," she said.

Sgt. Bob Dunn with Anaheim police said authorities understand the concerns of the community.

"We're willing to have dialogue with them, but that dialogue cannot go on until the violence and the mayhem down here stop," Dunn said.

As council members met Tuesday, protesters grew violent outside City Hall.

Two demonstrators were arrested for assaulting each other. One protester was armed with a handgun. Police said the crowd refused to disperse and blocked roads. The protesters were blocking traffic near City Hall after dozens of people were turned away from the packed City Council meeting.

Some protesters torched garbage dumpsters and threw rocks and bottles at officers. Police shot pepper balls and beanbag rounds to get the crowd to disperse - actions the city's police chief defends.

"Our job isn't to stand back in the back and let anarchists or rioters damage property and injure people. And if we don't do that, you'll be the first one criticizing me. 'Where were the police? How come they weren't out there protecting property and people?'" said Chief John Welter.

Police estimate 2/3 of the 1,000 protesters came from other cities - leaving one-third to be Anaheim residents.

"We don't expect last night's situation to be repeated. But if it should, the police response will be the same," said Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait.

The back-to-back deaths over the weekend took the tally of shootings by police officers in Anaheim to six so far this year, up from four a year before. Five of the incidents have been fatal.

Diaz, 25, was shot and killed by Anaheim police officers Saturday afternoon. Police say Diaz, who was unarmed, and two others started running as police on routine patrol ordered them to stop. Diaz was allegedly seen throwing unidentified items as police chased him. Shortly after, shots were fired.

Welter said Diaz threw what officials believed was heroine on the roof of an apartment complex and failed to comply with officers' orders. The chief would not say what led the officer to shoot Diaz.

Diaz's family filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against the city of Anaheim and its police department, claiming he was shot and killed while running away. Lawyer James Rumm said the family is seeking $50 million in damages.

The police union says that Diaz pulled an object from his waistband as if drawing a weapon before turning toward officers.

Sunday, Acevedo, 21, was shot and killed by police after officers say he shot at them following a short pursuit in a stolen SUV.

Both incidents were under investigation by the Orange County District Attorney Office, which is asking for any witnesses that might have cellphone video, audio or still photos of Saturday's officer-involved shooting to contact its Special Investigations Hotline at (714) 347-8544. The FBI is also conducting a review to determine whether a civil rights investigation is warranted.

The shootings spurred protests over the weekend. On Saturday, demonstrators hurled rocks and bottles at officers who were securing the scene for investigators. On Sunday, protesters swarmed police headquarters during a news conference and later set fire to a trash bin and pushed it into the street outside the apartment complex where Diaz died. On Monday night, his mother joined the relatives of others killed in police shootings in a march near where her son was shot.

Residents' concerns of the use of police force in the city are not new. Last month, Anaheim decided to look into hiring an independent investigator to review police shootings amid protests by relatives of those killed in officers' gunfire.

As multiple investigations into the shootings are conducted, two officers are on administrative leave.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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