Protests in Anaheim Escalate Over Police Shooting of Unarmed Man

Last night, Anaheim residents continued their protests over the the police shooting of two latino men, and seem poised to do so again tonight. Nearly 1,000 people took part in last night's demonstration, which began when 200 residents attended a city council meeting earlier that evening. A larger crower crowd was denied entrance, and some began throwing rocks and bottles at nearby police cars. The protest then spread through downtown Anaheim, where some demonstrators set fires and smashed windows, damaging City Hall, police headquarters and twenty businesses. 300 police officers in riot gear responded, using pepper balls, rubber pellets and batons to subdue the crowd. In total, 24 arrests were made, including one for assault with a deadly weapon.

The LA Times reports that two Orange County Register reporters were among those injured.

The protests are in response to the police's shooting of Manuel Diaz, 25, on Saturday afternoon. Anaheim police spokesman Sgt. Bob Dunn reported the shooting occurred after Diaz ran from police, a charge Diaz's niece doesn't dispute, according to CBS Los Angeles.

His niece, 16-year-old Daisy Gonzalez, said her uncle likely ran away from officers when they approached him because of his past experience with law enforcement. "He (doesn't) like cops. He never liked them because all they do is harass and arrest anyone," Gonzalez said.

Witnesses say Diaz was shot twice, both times from behind.

Crystal Ventura, a 17-year-old who witnessed the shooting, told the Register the man had his back to the officer. She said the man was shot in the buttocks area. The man then went down on his knees, and she said he was struck by another bullet in the head. Another officer handcuffed the man who by then was on the ground and not moving, Ventura said.

"They searched his pockets, and there was a hole in his head, and I saw blood on his face," she said.

Another witness described a gruesome scene:

Theresa Smith, whose son was killed Dec. 11, 2009, by Anaheim officers at a Walmart store, said she went by the scene of Saturday's shooting and was astounded by what she saw.

"There were pieces of brain on the ... darn grass, in front of all these children, in front of all these people," Smith said. "This traumatizes people, and these people are angry."

On Sunday, a second man was shot dead by police, which lead to further demonstrations, during which, according to various reports, police lost control of their K-9 dog, which then attacked protesters. Here's video of the incident:

Tuesday afternoon, Diaz's mother, Genevieve Huizar, filed a $50 million wrongful death suit agains the city. After Tuesday's violence, she called for calmer demonstrations: "Let's be peaceful. Peaceful demonstrations for everyone."

Her lawyer, Dana Douglas, echoed Huizar's sentiment, but added: "The police are arresting people who threw rocks and bottles, but not the officers who killed Manuel Diaz. That's not justice."

According to the LA Times, the FBI is now investigating Diaz's shooting.

The police union defended the shootings, saying both men were gang members with criminal records.

The union also said that just before Diaz turned toward officers during Saturday's confrontation, he pulled an object from his waistband - a common place where gang members hide guns.

"I believe that the independent investigations by the Orange County district attorney's office into both incidents will show no wrongdoing by these officers," said Kerry Condon, the police association's president.

If anyone has information regarding the past four nights or has plans to participate in protests tonight, please contact me here.

[Video via CBS: Image via Getty]