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Ecig Implicated in Police Shooting

Californian police are alleged to have killed a man because they initially believed his vaping box and atomiser was a weapon.

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There have been a number of stories lately regarding American police shooting unarmed black men. In the first of its kind, it is claimed that Californian police believed Alfred Okwera Olango, a Ugandan refugee, was brandishing a weapon. This, acknowledged by the police force, was an error as he was simply holding a vaping device.

Investigators are currently reviewing several videos taken during the events that led up to 38-year old Olango’s death. Despite claims to the contrary, his family state that he was not “mentally ill” but just “suffering a breakdown”. In fact, they say, when his sister reported her concerns about his safety to the police she explicitly told them he was unarmed and she wanted them to help him.

Officer Richard Gonsalves attended the scene with his weapon drawn. Video taken during the shooting depicts Olango raising his arms to his chest – in what the police later described as him taking up a shooting stance. The footage goes on to show Gonsalves firing four times at close range. Dan Gilleon, a lawyer acting for Olango’s family, said: “It shows a cowboy with his gun drawn provoking a mentally disturbed person.”

At a later news conference, El Cajon police department’s Captain Jeffrey Davis presented a box mod, the 4-inch electronic cigarette device they now admit Olango had in his hands.

His mother, Pamela Benge, explained that he had suffered a breakdown following on from the death of a dear friend. His sister called 911 after he was seen wandering in traffic in “a strange fashion,” and “not acting like himself”.

His sister was presented as Olango was approached by the police and, on one of the videos, a woman’s voice can be heard screaming for him to put his hands up.

“Mental breakdown is not easy to control. He needed someone who was trained. Just calm him down, and then take care of the situation,” his mother told a news conference. “That's all that the call was called for - not to come and just finish his life. My son was a good, loving young man. Only 38 years old, I wanted his future to be longer than that. I wanted him to enjoy his daughter.”

Dan Gilleon added: “Every single rookie, much less a PERT team, is taught that what you do in a situation like that is not escalate it, you de-escalate it. You don't confront the person, you decompress the person. You talk to him and you stay covered.”

In 2002, a judge ordered that Olango should be deported back to Uganda after he was convicted for transporting and selling drugs. Immigration authorities tried twice to deport him but Uganda failed to supply papers allowing him to return.

Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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