An unarmed black man fatally shot by police in a suburb of San Diego overcame a childhood of hunger in war-torn parts of Africa and came to America with the dream of opening a restaurant with his family, his brother said on Wednesday.
That dream ended with the death of Alfred Olango, 38, who was killed on Tuesday in El Cajon, California, when two officers responding to a report of a mentally ill man shot Olango after they said he pulled an unidentified object from his pants pocket and appeared to move into a “shooting stance.”
Olango’s brother, Joeffrey, described his brother as a father of two daughters with a “lion’s heart” during an interview on KTAV radio in San Diego.
The Rev. Shane Harris, who spent time with the family following the fatal shooting, said the two brothers were twins.
Alfred Olango sometimes risked his life in Africa to steal bread to feed his younger sister before his family moved to the United States from Uganda as refugees in 1991, his brother said during the 20-minute interview. He also said his brother sometimes saw dead bodies.
Protesters in San Diego said Olango may have been suffering a seizure in the moments before his death.
The 2006 federal court records said he had no known history of mental problems.
“He had a lion’s heart. He loved too much,” Joeffrey said. “That came from the way he grew up. Seeing all the things we saw as kids, knowing how brutal life can be and wanting to actually sustain the best possible quality of life.”
Relatives said Alfred Olango’s childhood and the journey to Southern California left him with a resilience and dedication to family. Family members have demanded a federal probe of the shooting and rejected a police narrative that the officer only shot Olango after police were threatened.
“He was no mean person, the whole picture how they show him pointing a gun, I don’t believe none of that. That ain’t him, I know for sure,” Olango’s cousin Anthony Williams told Reuters.
Federal court records show Olango fled to the United States because Uganda’s president at the time had threatened to kill the family. The father had worked for a prior president of the country.
Olango had been granted permanent U.S. residency but lost that status in 2001 after a conviction for selling cocaine. As of 2006, federal records showed, a deportation order against him was still pending.
After being pulled over by police in Aurora, Colorado, in December 2005, Olango pleaded guilty to one count of possession of a weapon by a felon and was sentenced to more than three years in prison, according to federal court records.
After moving to California with his family, Olango dropped out of San Diego High School, according to the federal court records. He obtained a high school equivalency degree while incarcerated for a criminal offense and later attended San Diego College, the court records said.
His Facebook profile listed jobs as head chef at a Hooters restaurant and a Western-themed steakhouse in Arizona, and said he studied at San Diego Mesa College.
Olango was developing plans to open a restaurant with his family that would share “the wonderful tastes of Africa with Americans,” his brother said.
“We suffered too much with the war in Africa, and we come here just to suffer again?” said Agnes Hassan, from Sudan, who said she spent time with Olango in a refugee camp.
(Editing by Leslie Adler)