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Mom condemns violence in wake of police shooting

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Genevieve Huizar, third from left, the mother of Manuel Diaz, who was shot to death by Anaheim police, breaks down after pleading for a stop to the violence and says she doesn't want that to be her son's legacy after a news conference in Santa Ana, Calif. Genevieve Huizar, third from left, the mother of Manuel Diaz, who was shot to death by Anaheim police, breaks down after pleading for a stop to the violence and says she doesn't want that to be her son's legacy after a news conference in Santa Ana, Calif.
Demonstrators gather on the steps of Anaheim City Hall Tuesday, July 24, 2012, to protest the death of Manuel Diaz, 25, who died as a result of gunshot wounds sustained during a police pursuit by the Anaheim Police Department last Saturday. (AP Photo) Demonstrators gather on the steps of Anaheim City Hall Tuesday, July 24, 2012, to protest the death of Manuel Diaz, 25, who died as a result of gunshot wounds sustained during a police pursuit by the Anaheim Police Department last Saturday. (AP Photo)

ANAHEIM, Calif. (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.

THIS IS A STORY UPDATE. For an earlier story, read below.

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Authorities remained on alert Wednesday after protesters set fires, smashed windows and threw rocks at officers in a fourth day of violent protests over deadly police shootings, ending with 24 arrests and several injuries.

As many as 500 demonstrators and 250 police from several Orange County cities were involved in seven hours of confrontations that ended around 2 a.m., Sgt. Bob Dunn said.

Most protesters were peaceful, but officers used pepper balls and beanbag rounds after some became violent. Police remained on tactical alert Wednesday morning.

The clashes followed a City Council meeting Tuesday in which city leaders voted to ask the U.S. attorney's office to investigate weekend officer-involved shootings that killed two men and prompted a $50 million civil-rights lawsuit.

The council chambers were packed with people and about 100 protesters were unable to get inside, Dunn said.

They chanted and held a peaceful rally outside. But the crowd swelled and when some people pushed on the windows, police came out and pushed them back, Dunn said.

Demonstrators marched to police headquarters and back to City Hall, but violence didn't erupt until around 6:30 p.m. when police detained a demonstrator who reportedly had a gun, Dunn said.

It turned out the man did not have a weapon, but some in the crowd began throwing rocks at officers, Dunn said.

While most protesters were peaceful, some appeared to be outsiders who "were prone to violence and wanted to incite" both the crowd and police, Dunn said.

Some demonstrators took over an intersection, and a splinter group walked to the scene of one police shooting and back, throwing rocks, vandalizing cars and throwing a Molotov cocktail that damaged a police car, Dunn said.

Throughout the night, knots of protesters spread through downtown, setting fires in trash cans and smashing windows of businesses, including a Starbucks, Dunn said. There also were reports that a T-shirt store was looted, he said.

A gas station was shut down after reports that some protesters were seen filling canisters with gas.

Police used pepper balls and beanbag rounds. Twenty adults and four minors were arrested, Dunn said.

About five people were hurt, including a police officer, two members of the media who were struck by rocks, and some protesters who may have been injured by police or during a fight between demonstrators, authorities said.

None of the injuries was believed to be life-threatening.

It was the fourth day of violence in the wake of two deadly officer-involved shootings.

The family of Manuel Diaz sued the city and the Police Department on Tuesday, claiming he was shot and killed Saturday while running away, lawyer James Rumm said. The family is seeking $50 million in damages.

The second shooting occurred Sunday when officers spotted a suspected gang member in a stolen sport utility vehicle. A brief pursuit ended when three people jumped from the vehicle and ran. Joel Mathew Acevedo, 21, fired at an officer and the officer shot and killed him, authorities said.

The back-to-back deaths took the tally of shootings by officers in this Orange County city to six so far this year, up from four a year before. Five of the incidents were fatal.

Police Chief John Welter said 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.

Mayor Tom Tait said a description from court papers relayed to him by a reporter that Diaz had been shot in the leg and in the back of his head was "unsettling."

Anaheim is a city of contrasts that ranges from upscale, hilltop homes to packed, gritty apartment complexes.

The city 25 miles southeast of Los Angeles is known as home to the Angels baseball team, and above all, to world-famous Disneyland.

As California's Hispanic population has grown, so has the Anaheim's, hitting nearly 53 percent in 2010, census figures show.

Residents' concerns about the use of police force in the city aren't new. Last month, Anaheim decided to look into hiring an independent investigator to review police shootings amid protests by relatives of those killed in officers' gunfire.

Latino activists say that isn't enough and they want federal officials to investigate the Saturday shooting.

Tait, who has called for state and federal investigations, said: "If the Latino community is saying there is a rift, then there is rift, and we need to address that."

The police union issued a statement defending the officers involved in the shootings and said both men killed were gang members who had criminal records. The union also said that just before Diaz turned toward officers, he pulled an object from his waistband — a place where gang members commonly hide guns.

The FBI is conducting a review to determine whether a civil rights investigation is warranted, agency spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.

___

Associated Press video journalist Raquel Maria Dillon contributed to this report.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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    Authorities remained on alert Wednesday after protesters set fires, smashed windows and threw rocks at officers in a fourth day of violent protests over deadly police shootings, ending with 24 arrests and several injuries. 
    Authorities remained on alert Wednesday after protesters set fires, smashed windows and threw rocks at officers in a fourth day of violent protests over deadly police shootings, ending with 24 arrests and several injuries. 
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