GARDENA, CA —
Video released Tuesday shows police officers shooting two unarmed men — one of them fatally.
A judge’s decision to release the video concludes months of legal battles, with the city fighting to keep the tape concealed from the public.
Of course, police say the shooting was justified.
Earlier this week, an attorney for the city said the video “looks bad” but it was not recorded from the perspective of the officers.
But the city still coughed up a $4.7 million settlement to victims.
Attorneys for the victims say the video shows the men were clearly not a threat.
“The videos show cold-blooded shooting of clearly unarmed men,” attorney R. Samuel Paz said.
The shooting occurred about 2:30 a.m. on June 2, 2013, after a bicycle was stolen from outside a CVS Pharmacy on Western Avenue. A police dispatcher mistakenly told officers that the crime was a robbery, which usually involves a theft using weapons or force, and officers headed to the area in search of two suspects.
Sgt. Christopher Cuff saw two men riding bicycles east on Redondo Beach Boulevard. The men were friends of the bike theft victim and were searching for the missing bicycle. Mistaking them for the thieves, Cuff ordered the men to stop and put their hands up, according to a district attorney’s memo written by a prosecutor who reviewed the police videos.
Ricardo Diaz Zeferino, whose brother owned the stolen bicycle, ran up to his friends as they stood before the police car. A dash camera video captured him yelling at Cuff, who screamed in English and Spanish for Diaz Zeferino to stop advancing, the district attorney’s memo said.
Diaz Zeferino raised his hands, pounded his chest with both hands and said something that was inaudible, the memo said. One of his friends later told investigators that Diaz-Zeferino was explaining that police had stopped the wrong people.
Two more police cars arrived, and three officers emerged with guns drawn.
The patrol car video showed Diaz Zeferino dropping his hands and reaching to his right waistband or rear right pocket and making a tossing motion, dropping an object on the ground, the district attorney’s memo said. He raised his hands, then repeated the move and removed something from his left rear pocket, the memo said.
“You do it again, you’re going to get shot,” yelled an officer on the video, according to the memo.
Diaz Zeferino removed his baseball hat and lowered his hands. As he began to raise his hands again, three of the officers opened fire, the district attorney’s memo said.
A single round hit one of the other two men, Eutiquio Acevedo Mendez, in his back, leaving bullet fragments near his spine. In a court filing, the city said Acevedo Mendez “was inadvertently struck with a bullet.”
The police, responding to a call about a stolen bike, shot the very people that were looking for the bike.
Police said the officers shot Diaz Zeferino because they feared he had a weapon.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Rosa Alarcon, the prosecutor who reviewed the shooting, said that Diaz Zeferino showed a “complete disregard for the officers’ orders” and that the video shows that officers could not see Diaz Zeferino’s right hand and “believed he was going to reach for a weapon.”
A lawyer who sued the city on behalf of Diaz Zeferino, Samuel Paz, says the videos show that Zeferino’s right hand was clearly empty and visible when the shots were fired. He says officers were giving confusing orders and despite having his hands above his head, Acevedo Mendez was shot.
Watch the footage for yourself and tell us what you think in the comments.