2012 Anaheim, California police shooting and protests
|Shooting of Manuel Diaz, Anaheim officer-involved shootings and protests|
|Location||Anaheim, California, U.S.|
|Date||July 21, 2012|
|6 (during protests)|
|Victims||Manuel Diaz and Joel Acevedo|
|Perpetrators||Nick Bennallack (shooter of Manuel Diaz)
Kelly Phillips (shooter of Joel Acevedo)
The Anaheim police shootings and protests of July 2012 involve two fatal shootings by police officers in Anaheim, California, and subsequent public protests. On July 21, Manuel Diaz was shot and killed by Anaheim Police officer Nick Bennallack after he threw an object believed to be heroin onto a roof during a foot chase. Protests ensued after the shooting. On July 22, Joel Acevedo was shot and killed by Anaheim police in an exchange of gunfire. Both shootings were ruled justified by the Orange County District Attorney's Office.
On July 21, 2012, 25-year-old Manuel Diaz was shot and killed by Anaheim Police officer Nick Bennallack in Anaheim, California. According to police officials, officers were responding to a call about men congregating in an alley when they saw two men together in the alley, one of them carrying a shotgun. When approached, the men ran. The police pursued them and shot Diaz in front of a nearby apartment complex. Police have stated that Diaz was known to be a gang member and during the chase had thrown an object believed to be heroin onto a roof. Eventually, Diaz was transported to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead around 7:00 p.m., about three hours after the shooting occurred. The story has changed according to the Anaheim Police Department on whether the item thrown was over a roof or over a fence.
Protests and second shooting
After the shooting, a crowd of local residents gathered around the crime scene. According to the police, the crowd began to throw objects at the police officers. Police then fired at the crowd. At one point, a police dog attacked several individuals. Junior Lagunas, 19, suffered puncture wounds from the police dog attack. The Anaheim police chief stated that the dog accidentally got free from a police car and apologized for the attack. Witnesses at the scene told a local journalist that the police were offering to buy cell phone videos. Two reporters from The Orange County Register were injured — one was hit in the head with a rock, and the other was hit in the foot with a projectile.
Further protests occurred in Anaheim, including protests at the police station and in the neighborhood where the shooting occurred.
The protests escalated the next day after police shot and killed another man, Joel Acevedo, after he shot at officers during a foot chase. On July 29, 200 protesters walked from the Anaheim police headquarters toward Disneyland. They were stopped at the intersection of Harbor Boulevard and Ball Road by a line of riot police and officers on horseback.
The mayor of Anaheim called for outside investigations of the shooting by state and federal agencies, and the two officers involved in the shooting of Diaz were placed on paid leave. According to the Diaz family lawyer, they have not been arrested.
After Acevedo was shot by Anaheim police on the day after the Diaz shooting, the city's police chief, John Welter, stated that he was "very concerned" about both the number of fatal shootings by Anaheim officers during the previous year and the controversy these shootings had caused.
Welter, along with other members of the Anaheim PD, were confronted earlier in the year by 100 residents of the Ponderosa community after 21-year-old Martin Hernandez was shot on March 6. Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait, City Council members Lorri Galloway and Kris Murray were in attendance as residents complained angrily of police harassment and intimidation in the neighborhood where Hernandez was shot.
Protests outside the Anaheim Police Department have been occurring since early 2010, led by Fullerton resident Theresa Smith. Smith's 35-year-old son, Caesar Cruz, was shot by Anaheim Police on Dec. 9, 2009. Ever since her son's death, she has protested weekly outside the police building, demanding answers and accountability. The number of participants in Smith's protests was typically small until early 2012, when she was joined by Orange County residents who had been protesting in Fullerton after the 2011 death of Kelly Thomas, a 37-year-old man with schizophrenia who was fatally beaten by police. After the March 2012 fatal shooting of Hernandez, his friends and family also joined in the weekly Anaheim protests. Tony Rackauckas, the district attorney for Fullerton, confirmed in an interview for PBS that during his term in office no police officers had been prosecuted for any of the shooting deaths that they were involved in.
On July 24, Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait announced that he had arranged for the U.S. Attorney's Office to review the shootings, and that he would meet with representatives from that office, as well as with FBI agents, on Friday, July 27. Also on July 24, peaceful protests were led by Anaheim residents at Anaheim city hall at 4pm. By 6pm, the crowd started becoming unruly and Anaheim police called for riot gear and backup from surrounding cities. Many residents and police cite people from outside the city who turned the protest into a riot later in the day. Rioters were seen breaking windows of local businesses. Although there were no reports of major violence, some property damage was reported. Fifty to a hundred protesters roamed the streets, throwing rocks and bottles, causing damage to over twenty businesses, as well as the police headquarters and City Hall. A Starbucks store was attacked late in the night by a group of young men who used metal chairs and skateboards to break the windows. Welter said that the Anaheim Police Department would review video footage posted online to identify the protesters who broke the law.
A third officer-involved shooting incident occurred on the early morning of July 27, when police shot at a man who was fleeing from the scene of a burglary. One burglary suspect was uninjured and was apprehended, while another man escaped in a vehicle; police officers did not know whether the man in the vehicle had been hit by gunshots.
On March 21, 2013, Rackauckas' office announced no charges would be filed against Bennallack in Diaz' death.
On March 6, 2014, a federal civil jury found the officers that killed Diaz not guilty of excessive force.
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