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Anaheim police shooting highlights city's division

July 26, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
The controversy over the use of deadly force by Anaheim police last weekend has focused new attention on low-income areas of the city.

Mention Anaheim and images of the "happiest place on Earth" usually come to mind. But just minutes from Disneyland, is a different scene. It's the neighborhood where Manuel Diaz grew up, and the place where the 25-year-old lost his life last Saturday.

Police allege that Diaz, a gang member, was shot while running away from officers. They later learned he was not armed. Diaz's family is suing the city for $50 million.

"He was more than just a friend. He wasn't a bad person or anything. He wasn't here causing trouble for anybody," said Rafael Brito of Anaheim.

The shooting sparked days of protests, which turned violent on Tuesday as hundreds of protesters wanting to voice their concerns over the shooting were unable to fit into a crowded City Council meeting.

Officers used non-lethal force to gain control. Police said small groups of people, mainly non-residents, vandalized more than 20 businesses. Officers arrested 24 people. Some people said the incidents expose a divided community.

"The cries of the people fall on deaf ears. It's what happens when you put a Band-Aid on cancer. This is a festering problem," said Joanne Sosa of Take Back Anaheim.

Some residents said they feel the City Council is out of touch. Four out of five council members live in the more affluent area of Anaheim Hills.

"When they come into office, they make promises to the communities that they will come revitalize, they'll help, they'll be there and they're still not there," Sosa said.

"As far as resources being spent, there have been a lot of resources. If there is a disparity, we probably need to look at that," said Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait.

More than half the residents of Anaheim are Hispanic. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed suit, claiming the existing at-large election system leaves Latinos poorly represented. Many residents say any change will have to start with gaining trust in authorities.

"If they're really being honest and they're really going to do it, I think they should show everybody the truth," Brito said.

Many in Anaheim said that starts by finding out what happened to Diaz. The mayor promises transparency and has called on an independent investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office.

"When the facts come out, then we will deal with them, we'll own them," said Tait.


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