One of the police officers involved in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man in El Cajon, California, on Tuesday has been identified as former police Sgt. Richard Gonsalves, who was demoted last year after another officer sued him for sexual harassment.
El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells confirmed Gonsalves’ identity in a press conference Wednesday afternoon but did not name the other officer involved in the fatal shooting of 38-year-old Alfred Olango. The El Cajon Police Department, the San Diego District Attorney’s office and the FBI are investigating the shooting, Wells said.
The incident unfolded Tuesday when Gonsalves and another officer, both 21-year veterans of the department, responded to calls about Olango walking in traffic and “not acting like himself.” Olango refused instructions to remove his hand from his pocket and pointed an object at the officers with “what appeared to be a shooting stance,” the department said. One officer responded by firing a stun gun while the other fired a service pistol, killing Olango. The object in Olango’s hand turned out to be a vape smoking device.
Gonsalves, local outlets noted, was already a contentious figure in the community. In March 2015, fellow El Cajon officer Christine Greer filed a lawsuit against him and the city, claiming he had made “continuous unwanted sexual advances” toward her and texted her photos of his genitals.
Greer settled her lawsuit, and the police department demoted Gonsalves from sergeant to officer ― a punishment that some citizens viewed as a slap on the wrist given the nature of the alleged harassment. Greer filed another lawsuit last month against the police department, CBS News reported, stating that she has since faced retaliation from male colleagues and continues to face harassment and intimidation from Gonsalves.
Wells did not identify Gonsalves’ role in the shooting but said the video he saw of the incident was emotionally wrenching.
“I saw a man who was distraught, a man who was acting in ways that looked like he was in great pain and I saw him get gunned down and killed, and it broke my heart,” he said during the press conference.
“I thought the video was certainly enlightening,” he continued, “and I don’t believe that this is going to be a tremendously complicated process for people to figure out what happened.”