California authorities were on alert today after residents angry over deadly police shootings set fires, smashed windows and threw rocks at officers in a fourth day of violent protests, ending with 24 arrests and several injuries.
As many as 1,000 demonstrators and 250 police from several Orange County cities were involved in several hours of confrontations that ended early today, Sgt. Bob Dunn said. The mayor and police chief said the demonstrators vandalized 20 downtown businesses.
The clashes followed an Anaheim City Council meeting yesterday in which city leaders voted to ask the US attorney's office to investigate weekend officer-involved shootings that killed two men and prompted a $50 million civil rights lawsuit.
The council chambers were packed with people, and about 100 protesters were unable to get inside, Dunn said. When some people pushed on the windows, police pushed them back, Dunn said. Violence didn't erupt until police detained a demonstrator who reportedly had a gun, he said. It turned out the man did not have a weapon.
About five people were hurt in the protests, including a police officer, two members of the media who were struck by rocks and protesters who may have been injured by police or by fighting, authorities said.
The family of Manuel Diaz sued the city and the police department yesterday, claiming Diaz was shot and killed on Saturday while running away, lawyer James Rumm said.
Anaheim, home to Disneyland, has seen its Hispanic population grow to more than 50 per cent in 2010, according to census figures. Latino activists say they want federal officials to investigate the shooting.
The second shooting occurred on Sunday when officers spotted a suspected gang member in a stolen sport utility vehicle. A brief pursuit ended when three people jumped from the vehicle and ran. Joel Mathew Acevedo fired at an officer, and the officer shot and killed him, authorities said.
Five shootings by officers this year have been fatal. Last month, Anaheim decided to look into hiring an independent investigator to review police shootings amid protests by relatives of those killed.
The police union issued a statement defending the officers involved in the shootings and said both men killed were gang members who had criminal records.
The FBI is conducting a review to determine whether a civil rights investigation is warranted, agency spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.