ANAHEIM, Calif. – The mother of Manuel Díaz, the unarmed victim of a fatal police shooting, condemned the unrest that has hit the streets of Anaheim, saying 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 Wednesday, 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 night of protests where as many as 600 demonstrators surged through downtown, smashing shop windows, setting trash fires and hurling rocks and bottles at riot-clad officers who used batons, pepper balls and beanbag rounds.
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.
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.
The violence downtown left 20 stores with shattered windows, authorities said.
Mayor Tom Tait also appealed for calm and said the U.S. attorney's office had agreed to review two officer-involved shootings over the weekend — including the one that left Díaz dead — 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.
Police were out in force Wednesday night and there were no immediate reports of problems.
Police said Díaz was shot Saturday after two officers approached three men who were acting suspiciously in an alley before running away. One officer chased Díaz to the front of an apartment complex.
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.
The back-to-back deaths were the fourth and fifth fatal police shooting in this Orange County city this year.
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 lawyer for Díaz's family said Hispanics feel they are disproportionately singled out by police and instinctively avoid police.
"White kids in a rich white neighborhood don't get rousted by police and when they do, they don't have to fear the police. But that's not true with brown kids in a poor neighborhood," said Dana Douglas, the attorney.
"Frankly, when it's brown kids in a poor area just standing there having a conversation, it's considered suspicious."
Police Sgt. Bob Dunn did not return messages seeking comment on Douglas' comments.
Police would not say what led the officer to shoot Díaz. But Welter said Díaz 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.
Reporting by the Associated Press.