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El Cajon Police fatally shoot man after mistaking vaping device for gun

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A 38-year old Ugandan refugee was fatally shot by police officers in El Cajon, California, this Tuesday after the man pointed a vaping device at responding officers. The shooting death of Alfred Okwera Olango prompted almost immediate outrage and public protests in the small town located just outside San Diego. A video of the incident has just been released to help calm the community and the victim’s family.

Initial reports claim that the victim’s sister had witnessed Olango walking and acting erratically in the midst of busy car traffic. She then allegedly called the El Cajon 911 on three different occasions that day to request assistance in subduing her mentally challenged brother. What happened next was a horrific incent that she will never forget.

"They shouldn't have called police. They should have called crisis communications," the woman is heard screaming in a video taken by an innocent bystander. "They just killed him," Olango’s sister said, crying.

When the young woman is talking about “crisis communications,” it is believed that she is referring to the Psychiatric Emergency Response Team (PERT). PERT is a team of mental health experts whose members often accompany or assist police officers in communicating with mentally challenged individuals. However, according to the LA times, PERT was not able to respond to the Olango incident because they were already engaged in another incident across town.

El Cajon Police release video of fatal shooting

The recently released police video seems to indicate that the unarmed man was pointing a cylindrical-shaped vaping device at the police. After repeated requests to drop the device, Officer Richard Gonsalves is then seen firing four rapid gunshots. Another officer, Josh McDaniel, is also seen deploying his taser in a further effort to diffuse the situation. Both officers have been on the police force for 21 years each. No criminal charges have yet been filed.

The vape pen is believed to be a Smok TFV4 MINI that is approximately 3-inches long and 1-inch in diameter. The box of the vape that Olango was holding is 4 inches x 2 1/4 inches x 1 inch. While the vaping community is saddened by this senseless loss of life, many can fully understand how the Smok TFV4 MINI can easily be mistaken by a non-vaping police officer as a loaded weapon. We encourage all vapers to be careful out there, especially when engaging with police during a minor traffic stop or some other possible interaction. 

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