Calm returns after protests rock Anaheim

Story highlights

The FBI will review the shootings to assess whether a civil rights inquiry is warranted

Two men are shot over the weekend, but it was Manuel Diaz' killing that sparks protests

Diaz' family files a $50 million lawsuit, saying he committed no crime

Anaheim police arrest 24 after Tuesday night's protest

CNN —  

After four nights of rioting, the Anaheim was calm Wednesday night as federal authorities agreed to examine police shootings in the city, including one Saturday that sparked the protests.

“We are aware of the concerns in the city of Anaheim and will review the recent incidents to determine whether a federal civil rights inquiry is warranted,” said spokeswoman Laura Eimiller with the FBI’s Los Angeles field office.

No inquiry has been opened yet, she said.

Police shot and killed two men in Anaheim over the weekend, but it was Saturday afternoon’s shooting of Manuel Diaz, 25, whom police described as a gang member, that sparked an immediate angry reaction from bystanders. Days of raucous protest and confrontations with police followed.

Police and an attorney for the Diaz family have both said that he was unarmed at the time of the shooting, though police say he was throwing objects at the officers.

The second shooting occurred Sunday, after a man officers were pursuing in a car theft case allegedly opened fire on police. They returned fire, killing him.

Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait said Wednesday that he asked the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles to investigate both shootings, but said violent protests “will simply not be tolerated in our city.”

“When the investigations are concluded, we will have a clear and complete understanding of these incidents,” Tait said. “At that time, we will have additional public dialogue about any actions that need to be taken. … We will not, however, accept any violent protests, vandalism or arson perpetrated under the guise of public protest.”

On Tuesday, demonstrators disrupted a city council’s meeting at the Anaheim City Hall, less than a mile and a half north of Disneyland, the city’s most famous tourist attraction.

Eyewitness video: Rioters clash with police

Protesters blocked access to the building, forcing a delay in the session as police moved to clear emergency exits, Police Chief John Welter said.

The protest moved to downtown streets, where demonstrators blocked a major intersection and refused to move, Welter said.

“After allowing the crowd to protest for a couple of hours, the violence escalated to the point where an unlawful assembly was declared and the streets were then cleared of protesters,” he said.

Welter said officers made 24 arrests.

Anaheim Police Sgt. Bob Dunn told CNN’s “Newsroom” that once the protest was broken up, “the crowds kind of moved around, sometimes fighting between each other, breaking windows and lighting fires and trash cans.”

Also Tuesday, the Diaz family filed a civil rights and wrongful death lawsuit against the city and the police department seeking $50 million in damages.

The family cites witnesses who say Diaz was talking with two friends around 4 p.m. Saturday when a police car drove up with lights on “and an intent to confront the young men.”

Diaz responded “instinctively when he saw people chasing him and began to run,” they say in the suit.

The suit, filed in state court, says police shot the unarmed Diaz in the back and that when he fell, they shot him in the head and killed him.

“There is a racial and economic component to this shooting,” said Dana Douglas, an attorney for the family. “Police don’t roust white kids in affluent neighborhoods who are just having a conversation. And those kids have no reason to fear police. But young men with brown skin in poor neighborhoods do. They are targeted by police, and something as simple as a friendly conversation is deemed ‘suspicious activity’ by police.”

Cell phone video taken at the scene of the incident and posted to YouTube showed police ordering bystanders to back away from the man lying face down on a lawn before they cordoned off the area with yellow police tape.

Dozens of people surrounded the police officers; some threw objects at them and rolled a burning trash bin in their direction, according to CNN affiliate KTLA. Police responded with rubber bullets and pepper spray. One demonstrator showed the television news station bruises she said she got from rubber bullets fired at the crowd.

The next day, protesters jammed the police department to complain about shootings involving police officers. But later the same night – in a separate incident – police shot and killed a second man, whom they also considered a gang member, when he allegedly fired at police, CNN affiliate KABC reported.

Monday, hundreds held a vigil for Diaz, chanting in Spanish, according to KTLA.

Dunn, the police sargeant said, said the Diaz shooting took place when officers in the “high-crime gang neighborhood” attempted to stop three men, who ran off.

“It was during that foot pursuit that the officer-involved shooting occurred,” he said. “The circumstances surrounding that shooting are under investigation by the district’s attorney.

Police in Anaheim were involved in six shootings in 2012, all but one of which were fatal, according to KTLA.

Police in Anaheim were involved in six shootings in 2012, all but one of which were fatal, according to KTLA.