Police: Encounter with ‘erratic’ man ends with officer-involved shooting in California

Credit: NBC San Diego

EL CAJON, Calif. (NBC News) — A man shot in an encounter with El Cajon Police was treated in a parking lot while a woman identified as his sister wailed nearby, demanding to know why police shot the man she had called them to help.

Dozens of officers swarmed the Broadway Village Shopping Center Tuesday at approximately 1 p.m. The shooting happened on the 700 block of Broadway at South Mollison Avenue, El Cajon Police said. The location is just north of Interstate 8 and west of State Route 67.

Almost three hours later, police officers told NBC 7 San Diego the man was acting erratically and failed to comply, while witnesses questioned the police motives in the shooting. Crowds gathering by the scene of the shooting began chanting, demanding answers from police.

Officers quickly secured the parking lot near the shooting. One witness at a local restaurant told NBC 7 police came and confiscated their cell phones following the incident; another witness recalled hearing an officer fire three or four rounds.

“I didn’t hear any command ‘Halt’, ‘Stop’ or ‘I’ll shoot,’” said George, a witness. “I didn’t hear any command or yelling. I didn’t hear the man say anything. Next thing I see ‘Pow, pow, pow, pow, pow’ – five shots.”

El Cajon Police spokesman Rob Ransweiler said the incident began Tuesday afternoon when police responded to a radio call of a subject acting erratically Tuesday afternoon.

When officers arrived on scene, Ransweiler said, the man did not comply with them. When asked by NBC7 if the man involved was armed, Ransweiler said, “I have the information, I’m just not…It’s an ongoing investigation, so I’m not releasing details of the investigation.”

In a tweet, El Cajon police said the encounter with the 30-year-old “erratic subject” ended with an officer-involved shooting.

When a reporter on scene asked Ransweiler if police knew of any calls that referred to the man as being mentally unstable, the spokesperson said, “I do know the answer to your question, but because it’s an ongoing investigation, I’m gonna decline to answer that question.”

The man was taken to a local hospital. His condition is unknown.

The shooting in the community east of San Diego occured just three days after police in Charlotte, North Carolina released video showing the Sept. 20 shooting of Keith Lamont Scott. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, a police officer shot and killed 40-year-old Terence Crutcher on a highway six days after the Charlotte shooting. In that case, Officer Betty Shelby, has been charged with manslaughter.

Both shootings have reignited protests from members of the African American community questioning the actions of law enforcement officers.

Tuesday afternoon, witnesses at local businesses detailed some of what they saw.

Maria, an employee at Los Panchos in El Cajon, said she was working when she saw and heard the shooting.

Shortly after the incident, Maria said police came into the restaurant and took all cell phones from employees after the shooting; they told employees not to talk to anyone, according to Maria. NBC 7 has not confirmed how many phones were confiscated.

One of her coworkers, who had captured video of the shooting, was among the people who had her cell phone confiscated, Maria said.

Los Panchos was placed under lock down, Maria told NBC 7. Several customers and employees are inside and no one inside is hurt.

Another witness working at a nearby business said he heard shots and screams across the street. He reported seeing two police officers and one individual at the scene and he heard the officer fire three or four rounds.

El Cajon City Councilmembers approved the purchase of 88 body cameras this past May, but the El Cajon Police Chief Jeff Davis said he was hoping to have the cameras in use by the start of 2017.

One video posted by Rumbie Mubaiwa shows a woman, identified as the victim’s sister, crying. In the video, she’s heard saying: “I called you to help me but you killed my brother.”

“Why couldn’t you guys tase him? Why why why why?” the woman is heard saying.

In the video, police approach the woman for questioning. She continues with her questions.

“I called so many times to help him,” she says, as officers ask the woman for her brother’s name and age.

Other passersby tried to comfort the woman.

By 3:30 p.m., dozens of people on Facebook had shared the Facebook Live video and others were sharing about the officer-involved shooting on the East County Emergency Updates page.

No other information was immediately available.

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