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Activist groups calls on Attorney General to investigate Anaheim officer-involved shootings

Alex, 18, lights a candle for his friend, Manuel Diaz. Diaz was shot and killed by Anaheim police on Saturday, July 21, 2012.
Alex, 18, lights a candle for his friend, Manuel Diaz. Diaz was shot and killed by Anaheim police on Saturday, July 21, 2012.
Bear Guerra/KPCC

Members of the Latino rights group called on Attorney General Kamala Harris Monday to investigate the Anaheim Police Department after a rash of officer-involved shootings over the last week and a half.

Co-founder Roberto Lovato said the group gathered 18,000 signatures for the petition asking Harris to get involved. 

At the moment, the FBI and the US Attorney's Office have agreed to conduct independent reviews of the death of Manuel Diaz, who was shot and killed by an Anaheim officer July 21. Additionally, the city has hired the Office of Independent Review, a contractor that audits police departments, to review the case. The Orange County District Attorneys office, which conducts investigations of all officer-involved shootings, is also investigating the shooting for possible criminal charges. Lovato said there's enough anger in the community that the state should also get involved in the case to investigate not only Diaz's death, but past officer-involved shootings and the department's crowd control policiies. 

Manuel Diaz's family is also initiating their own inquiry, as part of a $50 million wrongful death suit against the city. On Monday, the family's attorney reportedly asked for custody of his body to conduct an independent autospy. 

Diaz was apparently unarmed, and his death, followed by two additional officer-involved shootings in the next week, sparked massive protests in Anaheim that continued through this past weekend. Anaheim police have also been accused of treating protesters unnecessarily harshly, using less lethal weapons on crowds where young children were present, and in one case, apparently accidentally releasing a police dog that bit several people. On Sunday, 9 were arrested while protesting.

California Justice Department Spokesman Shum Preston said Harris will consider an inquiry when the time is right. By state law, there can only be one open criminal investigation into an incident at a time. 

"There is no question that a timely and thorough investigation into the incidents in Anaheim is needed," Shum said. "Once the independent investigation by the Orange County District Attorney's Office is completed, we will review the findings and evidence to determine whether additional review or investigation is warranted."