El Cajon police officer Richard Gonsalves has been identified as the officer who fatally shot Alfred Olango Tuesday afternoon after Olango’s sister called police for help because her brother was having a medical and mental health crisis.
“I called three times for them to come help me,” Olango’s sister sobbed. “Nobody came; they said it’s not priority.”
And when officers finally did come—responding to a 5150 call for someone in mental and possibly physical distress—instead of assisting Olango, Gonsalves shot him. El Cajon PD released a still image that is alleged supposed to prove that Olango was a threat.
Police said Wednesday night that Olango was pointing a vape smoking device, which apparently Gonsalves thought was a gun. The device was recovered from the scene. The second officer, who has not been named, used a Taser on Olango at the same time that Gonsalves fired his weapon.
Gonsalves, a 21-year police veteran, has a sordid history with the El Cajon police department.
In 2015, Officer Tina Greer filed a sexual harrassment lawsuit against Gonsalves, who was then her supervisor. Gonsalves sent Greer sexual text messages, including a picture of his genitals. In one text, he wrote of Greer and her wife, “I’m drunk and I want u! Both of u!”
Greer settled the lawsuit earlier this year and returned to work where she not only faced a “vile” work environment—which she believed to be in retaliation—she was assigned to work with Gonsalves again. Greer filed a second lawsuit in August.
According to ABC News 10:
The second lawsuit…claims Greer faces emotional and mental distress on the job while members of the department have retaliated against her. That retaliation includes comments made by male officers, spit on her locker and being forced to work in the same place as Gonsalves, the man who she claimed in her first lawsuit sexually harassed her.
“He should have been fired,” said Greer’s attorney, Dan Gilleon. “I think he should have been prosecuted. There’s no employer out there in their right mind that wouldn’t fire someone that does that.”
Greer and the city settled her previous lawsuit in November. Officer Gonsalves was demoted from sergeant to officer, but Gilleon said that’s not enough. He told Team 10 Gonsalves has followed Greer through the hallways of the police department, making her feel uncomfortable.
In January, according to her new lawsuit, “ECPD made the incomprehensible decision to force Officer Greer to work with Gonsalves in her immediate presence.”
“For her to settle the lawsuit and then them say, ‘OK, we’re fine now, now go back and work with him?’ It’s ridiculous,” Gilleon said.
This is the man who killed Alfred Olango.
As previously reported by The Root, despite knowing that Olango was in distress and required assistance, police confirmed that the Psychiatric Emergency Response Team was not on the call. A description of PERT’s responsibilities are as follows:
Provides emergency assessment and referral for individuals with mental illness who come to the attention of law enforcement through phone calls from community members or in-field law enforcement request for emergency assistance. PERT pairs licensed mental health clinicians with uniformed law enforcement officers/deputies. Clinicians work out of individual law enforcement divisions and respond in the field with their law enforcement partners.
San Diego County ( which includes El Cajon) increased their PERT budget by $1.6 million dollars last year.
“One of our goals is to increase public safety by freeing up officers to respond to other calls while PERT teams handle mental health calls,” said San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob at the time the budget increase was approved. “This will result in more opportunities for people to be redirected to mental health services, rather than being hospitalized or arrested.”
According to County News Center, mental health professionals should be riding “right along” when “responding to emergency calls where mental illness could be a factor.”
This did not happen in Olango’s case.
The intersection of racism and mental illness or disabilities is dangerous for black people in America: Aura Rosser, Joseph Mann, Ezell Ford, Miriam Carey and too many more have fallen victim to intense mental health stigma and preconceived notions of black violence and criminality. This potentially, and very probably, explains why neither Olango’s sister—when she called for help—nor Olango’s life was treated with the respect and care they both deserved instead of violence.
According to Alexandra Jackson, a long-time friend of Olango’s, he had also been in emotional distress.
“I’ve known [Olango] for about 10 years…he was a good kind-hearted man who was dealing with the death of another friend that committed suicide days before this,” Jackson told The Root.
“He was acting very strange since the death of our friend—very paranoid and not himself,” Jackson continued. “Everyone who knew Alfred loved him because he was so helpful and kind. I can’t believe he’s gone.”
According to El Cajon Police Chief Jeff Davis, it took police officers 50 minutes to arrive on the scene after Olango’s sister called for help. The entire shooting was captured on video, which Davis says will not be released as it is part of an ongoing investigation.
Both Gonsalves and the police officer who fired his Taser are on paid administrative leave.
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