ANAHEIM (AP) — The mother of an unarmed man who was shot by Anaheim police officers has condemned violent protests against the killing, saying Wednesday she did not want them to become her son’s legacy.
“I watched as my son took his last breath. I watched as his heart stopped beating for the last time,” Genevieve Huizar said, breaking into sobs. “Please, please, please stop the violence. It’s not going to bring my son back, and this is the worst thing any mother could go through.”
Her news conference followed a fourth day of violent protests over Saturday’s police shooting of Manuel Diaz and the Sunday police shooting of another man who fired at police during a pursuit. A police dog escaped shortly after Diaz was shot Saturday and bit a bystander.
In the latest wave of protest, as many as 600 demonstrators surged through downtown Tuesday night, smashing shop windows, setting trash fires and hurling rocks and bottles at police, authorities said.
Huizar said her family had not participated in any violence.
At an earlier news conference, Mayor Tom Tait said the U.S. attorney’s office had agreed to review the officer-involved shootings and that he planned to meet with members of that office and the FBI on Friday.
“We will have a clear and complete understanding of these incidents” followed by a public dialogue on what actions should be taken, Tait said at a news conference.
The shootings and resulting demonstrations marred the image of the Orange County city, which is home to Disneyland and the Angels baseball team but also has neighborhoods teeming with gritty apartments.
Like much of California, the city of more than 330,000 has changed significantly since Disneyland put it on the map in 1955. With its growth spurt, the once mostly white population is now more than 50 percent Hispanic and there’s a sense of disenfranchisement from some in the Latino community.
The violence downtown spread into Wednesday morning and left 20 stores with shattered windows, authorities said.
Twenty-four people, including four minors, were arrested on suspicion of crimes ranging from failure to disperse to assault with a deadly weapon, Police Chief John Welter said at a news conference.
Video showed knots of young men and women looting a T-shirt store and breaking the windows of a Starbucks.
Some 300 police from Anaheim and surrounding communities were called in and riot-clad officers used batons, pepper balls and beanbag rounds.
At least six people were injured, including a police officer who was struck on the arm with a brick, a protester who was hit in the chest by a pepper ball, and two reporters who were struck by rocks and a beanbag round, police and witnesses said.
None was immediately hospitalized.
Police will examine videos of the protests to identify violent protesters and there could be further arrests, Welter said.
“Vandalism, arson and other forms of violent protest will simply not be tolerated in our city,” Tait said. “We don’t expect last night’s situation to be repeated but if it should be, the police response will be the same: swift and appropriate.”
The violence erupted from a peaceful rally after demonstrators unable to get into a packed City Hall meeting blocked a nearby intersection. After several hours, police declared an unlawful assembly and moved in, Welter said.
As they cleared the street, groups of 50 to 100 people splintered off and moved through downtown, throwing rocks and bottles at police and passing motorists and setting fires in trash bins, Welter said.
Diaz’s family sued the city and the Police Department on Tuesday, claiming he was shot and killed Saturday while running away. The family is seeking $50 million in damages.
Online court records show Diaz was convicted last year of drug possession, and three years earlier of possessing a firearm on school grounds and being a member of a criminal street gang.
The second shooting occurred Sunday when officers spotted a suspected gang member in a stolen sport utility vehicle. After a brief pursuit, police said 21-year-old Joel Mathew Acevedo fired at an officer who returned fire and killed him.
At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, scores of angry residents called for the police chief to be fired and for creation of a civilian police oversight commission.
Residents said the city needs to pay more attention to poor, gang-ridden areas and less attention to developers seeking to build hotels near the Disneyland resort area.
“Folks … think of Disney and Anaheim and everyone would say it’s a happy place,” said Joanne Sosa, spokeswoman for the group Take Back Anaheim. “What they don’t know is that for years and years, the City Council has ignored the cries from the people that are disenfranchised.”
The back-to-back deaths were the fourth and fifth fatal police shooting in this Orange County city this year.
Welter has said that Diaz was shot after two officers approached three men who were acting suspiciously in an alley before running away. One officer chased Diaz to the front of an apartment complex.
The chief would not say what led the officer to shoot Diaz. But Welter said Diaz failed to heed orders to stop and threw something on the roof of the complex that contained what officers believe was heroin. Both officers were placed on paid leave pending an investigation.
(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)