A video showing the fatal shooting of an unarmed man at the hands of Gardena, Calif. police was released by a judge’s order Tuesday – despite efforts to keep the video under wraps, the LA Times reports.
A federal judge made the call, citing public interest in the recordings as the reason. The city just settled a $4.7 million lawsuit over the two-year-old shooting.
The graphic video, captured by police cruiser dash-cameras, shows three men being ordered to keep their hands up as police aim their weapons at them. The men were mistakenly suspected of stealing a bike, although the bike in question belonged to the victim’s brother, the Times reports. While two of the men stand with their hands in the air, Ricardo Diaz Zeferino shuffles forward, raising his hands in what appears to be a confused state. At one point, he drops his hands to remove his hat. Police open fire, sending Diaz Zeferino to the ground.
The 35-year-old was struck, fatally, eight times. The man standing next to him was also wounded in the gunfire.
Before the judge’s ruling Tuesday, the city of Gardena attempted to prevent the public release of the video.
In unsealing the videos, U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson said the public had an interest in seeing the recordings, especially after the city settled a lawsuit over the shooting for $4.7 million. Wilson rejected last ditch efforts by Gardena attorneys, who argued the city had paid the settlement money in the belief that the videos would remain under seal.
“The ‘defendants’ argument backfires here — 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. “Moreover, while the videos are potentially upsetting and disturbing because of the events they depict, they are not overly gory or graphic in a way that would make them a vehicle for improper purposes.”
Late Tuesday, Gardena Police Chief Ed Medrano released a statement, calling the shooting “tragic for all involved.” “We have thoroughly reviewed our response and have initiated new training,” Medrano said. “Including the tactical use of cover techniques to slow down fast-moving events.”
“Our police officers are entrusted with sensitive and extremely personal information and we often come in contact with people under tragic situations and at their worst,” he said. “We worry about the implications of this decision and its impact on victims and average citizens who are recorded by the police.”
The officers involved — Christopher Mendez, Christopher Sanderson, and Matthew Toda — did not face charges in the shooting.