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Racial Tensions and Questionable Killings by Police in Anaheim: 9 Things You Should Know

It’s best-known as "happiest place on Earth.” But just four miles away from Disneyland, a cloud of tear gas and public outrage has swept over Anaheim.

The city of Anaheim, California  may be best-known as home to the "happiest place on Earth.”  But on Tuesday, just four miles away from Disneyland, a cloud of tear gas swept over Anaheim. Angry residents smashed business windows, hurled rocks, and started trash-can fires as the police shot bean bag bullets, pepper balls, and tear gas at them.

The majority-Latino town appears to have imploded, as residents demand answers for a police killing they say is proof of racial biases.

Saturday afternoon was the last time twenty-five-year-old Manuel Diaz saw daylight. Residents say Diaz was unarmed and running when police shot him from behind. That afternoon, angry neighbors gathered near the incident in protest. Video shows Anaheim police firing bean bags and pepper spray into a crowd full of families. By Sunday, about 50 demonstrators marched to the Anaheim Police Department's headquarters, but the Anaheim PD had already killed again. This time, the dead was “documented gang member” Joel Acevedo, who allegedly fired at police pursuing his stolen vehicle. Demonstrations continued into Tuesday, when tensions erupted in a near- warzone just miles away from Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.

The people of Anaheim are demanding justice. What will happen next is uncertain, and anger rages on. Here are nine things you need to know about Anaheim’s past four days, and the building tension erupting in Southern California. 

1)The Shot That Started It All

Residents first were in a uproar about the nature of Diaz’s killing, which appears to be an overt abuse of force. According to witness accounts,  police first shot Diaz in the leg, bringing him down to his knees, before firing again at his head.  Mayor Tom Tait called reports that Diaz was shot in the head and leg "unsettling." On Tuesday, Diaz's family filed a civil rights lawsuit for $50 million in damages from the city of Anaheim and the Anaheim police department. They say Diaz was not threatening, but was shot while running away.

In some reports, police claim they approached Diaz for “ suspicious behavior --  hurling something they “believe” to have been heroin onto nearby roofs. Still, drug allegations have not been substantiated, with no recovery of the alleged heroin.

2. Child Victims of Police Brutality

Children were present at Saturday’s demonstration when police unleashed attack dogs and rubber bullets into the crowd. According to this heartbreaking video, some of Anaheim’s youth were not spared the police department’s force. Police dogs knocked over a stroller and a bit a young boy. One little girl said, “They’re saying they let the dog go out by accident but it was on purpose.”

A child as young as five -- shot in the eye with a police projectile -- is among the youngest reportedly struck. Amber Stephens at Orange County Weekly reports interviewing five children of the more than one dozen residents struck by beanbag rounds. “One minor said she was hit by a teargas bullet in her mouth,” Stephens wrote.  

Anaheim Police Sargeant Bob Dunn told OC Weekly, "If children were hit, they have not made their presence known to us,” but footage of the rally makes it clear that children were everywhere -- their presence was obvious.  

3. Why the Weapons?

The reason for police force on Saturday is unclear. Police have told the media they used weapons on the crowd in response to “gang-members” throwing bottles. Footage of the alleged instigation is not available; still, a bystander told OC Weekly “a few water bottles were tossed in the street" as demonstrators demanded answers from police, who "just started shooting everyone."