ANAHEIM – More than 20 people were arrested as protesters clashed with police during a fourth day of unrest over two fatal officer-involved shootings this weekend.
At least six people were injured during the violent protest, with crowds setting trash fires, smashing windows at some downtown businesses and throwing rocks and other projectiles at officers in riot gear who deployed bean bags and pepper balls at demonstrators refusing to disperse.
“It seems fairly calm in the area,” Dunn said Wednesday morning. “We haven’t had any calls since about 1:30 a.m. reference the same type of activity.”
Three people suffered unknown injuries and a police officer suffered a minor arm injury, Anaheim police Sgt. Bob Dunn said. Additionally, two Register reporters were injured. One was hit in the head with a rock and the other was hit on the foot with a projectile. Both are seeking medical attention.
Police arrested 20 adults and four juveniles, Dunn said, adding that they will be reviewing videos in order to make additional arrests in connection with Tuesday night’s criminal activity.
“We support the people’s right to peacefully protest, however those prone to violence and vandalism will not be tolerated,” Dunn said.
City officials were to hold a press conference Wednesday at 9 a.m. at police headquarters and the family of the man shot on Saturday will hold a press conference at the Superior Court building in Santa Ana at 11 a.m.
Anaheim police were assisted by officers from Orange County agencies and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. About 250 officers tried to control the 600-strong crowd, Dunn said.
The protest began hours after a large crowd attempted to get inside Tuesday night’s City Council meeting. They were rebuffed by police officers who cited fire standards and would not let anyone else into the crowded council chambers, where the council held its regular meeting and talked about what the crowd was upset about: two fatal police shootings over the weekend.
At some point, protesters called for everyone to hit the street.
The crowds marched along Anaheim Boulevard to Lincoln Avenue, going into the street and blocking traffic.
About 7:40 p.m., police lined across Broadway and in front of City Hall in riot gear. The crowd, now nearly 600 strong and peaceful, stood about.
Authorities announced a dispersal order at Anaheim and Broadway shortly before 9 p.m., then released pepper balls at the feet of the protesters, prompting the crowd to move rapidly away.
Some regrouped nearby, while others scattered throughout downtown.
Patrol cars damaged
Rocks were thrown at police during the protest and some patrol vehicles were damaged.
Half a dozen businesses at a shopping center at Anaheim Boulevard and Lincoln Avenue had their windows smashed. Early Wednesday morning, about a dozen young people showed up armed with broomsticks, sweepers and trash bags.
Members of the impromptu cleaning-crew said they were nearby residents who wanted to help out. Some said they participated in Tuesday night’s protests until things began to turn violent, while others said they lived near the neighborhoods where the police shootings took place.
“I’m sure none of the people who did this were going to be out here cleaning,” said Yolanda Navarro, 23, who learned about the early-morning effort to clean up through Facebook.
Some who showed up to clean up the broken glass said they sympathized with protesters who were angry and seeking answers, but were disappointed to see things turn violent.
“It’s not the way to do it,” Navarro said. “You get attention, but not the kind you want.”
Celso Gutierrez, the owner of Pinoy Fresh in the business center, said he wanted to drive down to his restaurant when he saw people breaking the windows of the nearby Starbucks.
“They’re (protesters) looking for justice, but this is not the justice they’re looking for,” he said.
He decided not to go in, and found a glass door shattered when he inspected the damage Wednesday morning.
The Anaheim Police Association on Tuesday said that the Anaheim officer who fired a fatal shot at an unarmed man this weekend saw some kind of object in the man’s waistband and feared it was a weapon.
The association’s account, and a $50 million lawsuit filed by the man’s mother, offered new details about the shooting that killed 25-year-old Manuel Angel Diaz. An attorney for Diaz’s mother said he was shot in the back, then fell to his knees and was shot again in the head.
Police have described Diaz as a known gang member and said he fled on foot down a residential alleyway when officers approached him on Saturday afternoon. They have declined to speak in any more detail about what led to the shooting.
The next day, an Anaheim gang officer shot and killed another man, Joel Mathew Acevedo, 21, in an unrelated incident. Police also described Acevedo as a known gang member and said he opened fire on officers during a foot chase.
The back-to-back shootings have sparked several demonstrations.
“The community is scared and angry,” said Joanne Sosa, who helped organize Tuesday’s protest. “We don’t want violence, we just want those people (in City Hall) to know things need to change.”
Diaz was talking with friends when police confronted them, according to an attorney representing his mother in her lawsuit against the city. All three ran, and two officers chased Diaz, attorney Dana Douglas said in a statement.
One of the officers had recognized Diaz as a known gang member and saw him holding a “concealed object” in his waistband with both hands, according to the police association. He ignored their orders to stop running, then pulled the object from his waistband and turned toward the officers, the association said.
“Feeling that Diaz was drawing a weapon, the officer opened fire on Diaz to stop the threat,” the association said in its statement. Anaheim police said after the shooting that Diaz was not armed; the association declined to say what the object that the officer reported seeing was.
The attorney for Diaz’s mother called that account of the shooting an “absolute fabrication.” She said Diaz was shot in the back and the back of the head, so it would have been “physically impossible” for him to have turned toward the officers. She also said no witnesses she interviewed had seen Diaz turn.
A city spokeswoman did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Douglas said she also filed a formal claim for damages against the city, a precursor to a lawsuit in state court.
The day after Diaz was killed, a gang investigator patrolling a nearby neighborhood saw a stolen vehicle and tried to pull it over, according to the police association. The driver instead led officers on a short pursuit and crashed; three people got out and ran.
One of them, Acevedo, turned during the chase and fired a handgun at an officer, the police association said. The officer returned fire, killing him. A handgun was recovered next to his body.
Court records show that Acevedo pleaded guilty in 2010 to resisting a peace officer and in 2009 to street terrorism and receiving stolen property. Diaz pleaded guilty in 2011 to drug charges and in 2008 to having a firearm on school grounds, with a street-gang enhancement, records show.
The two shootings in two days brought to six the number of officer-involved shootings in Anaheim so far this year; five were fatal.
The FBI is reviewing whether a civil-rights investigation is warranted after the two shootings, spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said. City leaders have also invited the state Attorney General’s Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to investigate.
The District Attorney’s Office is investigating both shootings, which is standard protocol for officer-involved shootings.
By DENISSE SALAZAR, SALVADOR HERNANDEZ, ERIC CARPENTER, DOUG IRVING, SEAN EMERY and MICHAEL MELLO / THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
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