Video of California officers shooting unarmed man released
July 15, 2015
A federal judge has ordered the release of a police video that shows three Southern California officers opening fire on and killing an unarmed 35-year-old man who was mistakenly suspected of stealing a bicycle. [LA Times]
In the June 2013 incident, Richard Diaz Zeferino, 35, was actually helping search for the stolen bicycle, which belonged to a friend of his. Three Gardena police officers stopped Zeferino and two others and ordered them to keep their hands up.
Zeferino, who appeared confused, repeatedly dropped and raised his hands. He also stepped backward and forward a few paces.
After Zeferino removed a baseball cap from his head, all three officers opened fire. Zeferino was struck eight times by bullets.
One of Zeferino’s friends was also wounded in the shooting, but survived.
Attorneys for the city of Gardena argued Zeferino repeatedly ignored police orders and reached into his pockets and waistband area. Gardena settled a lawsuit over the shooting for $4.7 million, but the city has fought to keep the video sealed.
The Los Angels Times, Associated Press and Bloomberg requested that the footage be released.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson ordered the release of the video. Wilson said the public had an interest in seeing the recording.
“The fact that they spent the city’s money, presumably derived from taxes, only strengthens the public’s interest in seeing the videos,” Wilson wrote.
After Wilson issued his ruling, Gardena appealed and obtained an order from a 9th circuit judge to keep the footage under seal. The LA Times had already published the video, though.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office did not file charges against the three officers — Christopher Mendez, Christopher Sanderson and Matthew Toda. The district attorney’s office said it was reasonable for the officers to think Zeferino was reaching for a weapon.