Neighbours watched in horror as police in Anaheim, California first shot Manuel Diaz in the back of his leg ― and then executed him with a bullet to the head in the courtyard of their apartment complex on July 21.
The Anaheim Police Department proceeded to terrorise residents who gathered to confront the cops about the murder they had just witnessed. Police responded by opening fire with rubber bullets and tear gas at a crowd that included young children.
Video footage of the police assault prompted continuing protests in Anaheim, including several reported occupations of police stations.
Then, in the early morning hours of July 23, Anaheim cops killed again a few miles away ― shooting 21-year-old Joel Acevedo, who they claimed had stolen an SUV.
A police spokesperson said someone in the stolen vehicle shot at officers, who returned fire. But the resident of an apartment next to where the killing took place said she heard five consecutive gunshots, not an exchange of gunfire.
A video posted on the OC Weekly website depicting the murder of Diaz shows cops standing around Diaz after he was shot in the head, preventing anyone from helping him.
"He was already down on the ground and clearly not going anywhere when the officer shot him in the head," an eyewitness said the next day. Another witness to the police killing said it took 45 minutes to get an ambulance to the scene.
Diaz died at a hospital later that evening.
More and more residents showed up to protest the murder. The cops claim the crowd started throwing rocks and bottles at them. Witnesses deny this.
The police then moved against defenseless protesters, firing pepper spray and rubber bullets.
The next day, residents of the Latino neighborhood where Diaz was shot gathered near the scene of the murder.
"People think: Today he got shot, tomorrow, it could be me,” Mari, a young woman from the neighbourhood, said. “Who's next? That's why people want to do something."
A young man, Eddie, added: "Yeah, they want us to be intimidated, but they're not going to intimidate us."
By midday, protesters had gathered at the Anaheim Police Station to express their outrage. They marched into the building to demand answers.
The two police killings are the latest in what residents describe as a dramatic increase in officer-related shootings. Protesters said there have been six already this year.
Another young man who lives nearby, Abel Lopez, came out to the protest after hearing about what happened. "They think they can just come into our neighborhoods and shoot people," he said.
"We're outraged about the lack of justice. The police are supposed to be here to protect us, but they are hurting us. They think they can get away with treating communities of minorities this way."
[Abridged from Socialist Worker.]