Another day, another hashtag.
In line with the recent trends of one black man shot and killed by police a day, cops in southern California fired on an unarmed 30-year-old African-American male Tuesday. Alfred Olango, who was apparently suffering from a mental breakdown near a shopping center in El Cajon, later died from gunshots.
According to Olango’s sister, police were called three times to assist with Olango as he was dealing with a mental emergency and was possibly a danger to himself and others. She stated that they ignored her initially because it wasn’t a “priority.” However, officers eventually arrived, fully aware they were dealing with a ‘5150’ call. A 5150 is defined as follows:
When a person, as a result of a mental disorder, is a danger to himself/herself or others or is gravely disabled, a peace officer, a member of the attending staff, or another professional person designated by the county may with probable cause take the person into custody and place him or her in a facility for a 72-hour treatment and evaluation.
Basically, the cops knew they were there specifically handle a situation with someone who was suffering from some kind of mental distress. Therefore, their first order of business was to try to de-escalate, to calm Olango and to get him to a safe environment, preferably at a mental health facility so he could be treated. Instead, they killed him.
Now, according to police, and based on a still photo released from a cellphone video, Olango was fatally shot because he pulled an object out of his pockets and pointed it at an officer. However, there was no weapon retrieved from the scene. And, once again, the officers were responding to a call that Olango was mentally ill and suffering a breakdown.
The investigation just started, but based on the video voluntarily provided by a witness, the subject did NOT have his hands up in the air
— El Cajon Police (@elcajonpolice) September 28, 2016
According to Mapping Police Violence, Olango is the 217th African-American to be killed by police this year. This is roughly the same rate that we’ve seen since Michael Brown was shot by Darren Wilson in Ferguson more than two years ago. And studies show that black men are 3.6 times more likely to be shot and killed than their white counterparts.
Despite the heavier media attention and social activism devoted to the cause of racial disparity in policing, the stats remain the same. Protests are held, changes are demanded, yet police officers around the country continue to react with the same ‘shoot to kill’ mentality when confronted by black men. They are trained to use lethal force whenever they feel they are in immediate danger.
The thing is, for many officers, a man’s blackness is enough to scare them, and enough to justify shooting him dead. And until we can change that implicit bias in our police departments, nothing will change. And we’ll keep seeing more and more hashtags.