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EL CAJON, Calif. – Ministers led dozens of people in a prayer for unity, healing and peace Friday in a San Diego suburb following days of angry and sometimes violent protests over the police killing of an unarmed black man.
The prayer service comes ahead of what's expected to be a large protest Saturday by the family of Alfred Olango and demonstrators upset over his killing and demanding the release of a video showing the incident.
Ministers said the community was hurting after the death of Olango, who reportedly had been distraught and acting erratically and walking in traffic when his sister called police for help.
"We pray to you to thwart those who would bring unrest, chaos and damage to our city and our county, to those who would try to use this tragedy for their own purpose," the Rev. Dave Hoffman said. "We pray for those who loved Alfred Olango who have lost a father, a loved one, a friend, that your peace and comfort would fall upon them."
Olango had not obeyed an order to remove a hand from his pants pocket and was fatally shot Tuesday after he quickly drew an object from the pocket and pointed it at an officer in a "shooting stance," police said. The object was an e-cigarette device.
Olango's anguished mother has also called for peaceful protest, telling a news conference that she didn't want to see reminders of the violence her family escaped in Uganda.
"We have come from a war zone," Pamela Benge said Thursday through sobs, wearing large dark glasses to cover her tears. "I don't want war. If you've seen war, you would never, ever want to step near where there's war."
Despite the call for peace, Thursday's protests were more violent and destructive than gatherings the previous two nights.
Between 50 and 75 people marched through streets and blocked intersections. Some got into fights with drivers angry over blocked traffic, at times breaking car windows and in one case pushing a man off his motorcycle, police said. Some threw bottles at police.
Police used pepper-spray balls to break up the crowd and two men were arrested for failing to end an unlawful assembly.
Olango, who came to the U.S. from Uganda in 1991, was twice ordered deported because of a drug sales conviction, but his home country refused to take him back. He also spent time in federal prison for being a felon in a possession of a gun after being arrested in Colorado in 2005 with a 9mm semi-automatic pistol.
El Cajon police released a still image from a bystander's video that showed his hands together outstretched at chest level and aiming at an officer.
The family urged authorities to release the entire video, saying authorities were misinforming the public by only showing a single image.
"It's a wonderful way if you're litigating a case in the media," attorney Dan Gilleon said. "It fits a perfect narrative for them."
The El Cajon mayor defended the decision to release the single frame, saying it accurately represented the situation the two officers faced.
"I thought it was way too incendiary to not release something," Mayor Bill Wells said.
Wells said he reached that decision with the police chief and District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis to release the image to counter reports from people saying Olango had his hands in the air and was begging not to be shot.
Wells said he met with leaders of the black community Thursday who told him releasing the video immediately could help prevent violence. Wells said he wants to talk to the district attorney to discuss why the video should not be released immediately.
The San Diego district attorney's office, which controls when videos of officer-involved shootings are released, said there is no time frame for when it will release the video.
The fatal shooting happened less than two weeks after black men were shot and killed by police in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Charlotte, North Carolina, where violent protests broke out.
Police in both those cities have released videos of the shootings.
Melley reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press writers Amy Taxin, Elliot Spagat, Andrew Dalton and John Antczak contributed to this report.