San Diego Teen on Police Stops: "I'm Their Prey"

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NBC 7's Sherene Tagharobi reports on the rally held Sunday at San Diego Police Headquarters. (Published Monday, Aug 25, 2014)

There were powerful words Sunday from leaders in San Diego's African American community, including one young leader whose message of mutual respect local law enforcement seemed to take to heart.

Christian Onwuka of Encanto says he’s been stopped by police five times. The St. Augustine High School student recalls there was one week when he was stopped three times.

“I was mad. I was livid because what am I doing but walking home. How do I look like a suspect by walking home,” he asked.

Those experiences and stories like that of Michael Brown, the 18-year-old Missouri resident shot and killed in an officer-involved shooting, that have led Onwuka to fear police.

“Instead of them being my protector, they're my predator and I'm their prey,” Onwuka said. At a rally Sunday attended by community leaders and members of the San Diego Police Department.

He said he had to turn his anger into a more intelligent fear.

“I accept it, I understand it but it still angers me at times,” he said. “Is every young African American man with a clean-cut head a suspect? No.”

Assistant Police Chief Walt Vasquez would not speak directly on the situation in Ferguson but said each law enforcement agency must figure out ways to connect to the community.

“If one of our citizens feels they're being stopped unjustly than it's something we need to take very, very seriously and we do,” Vasquez said.

With so many questions about exactly what happened between Brown and Officer Darren Wilson, the Ferguson police officer involved in the incident, there are new calls for police officers to wear body cameras.

Seventy-five SDPD officers already do with plans in the works to outfit all uniformed personnel in the future.

At Sunday’s rally, Bayview Baptist Church Senior Pastor Terry Brooks said citizens and police officers both must recognize the good in the other.

“Not everybody that looks like me is a gang banger drug dealer, up to no good,” said Brooks.

“We have to realize while we want them to stop doing things that make us feel uncomfortable how many times they've protected us from things that could have put us in harm's way,” he added.

Brooks called for sensitivity training for officers tailored to the communities they patrol.
 

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