A Southern California police agency believed that by paying a $4.7 million settlement to the family of an unarmed, innocent man they shot and killed in 2013, they would not be obligated to release the dashcam videos of the shooting to the public.
The city of Gardena was wrong.
A federal judge ruled today that considering the taxpayers were the ones funding the settlement, the city had an even higher obligation to release the videos, forcing it to hand over the footage to the Los Angeles Times.
However, the city of Gardena remained defiant, filing an appeal with a higher court, which sided with the city in that they had the right to coverup the shooting of an innocent man.
But by then, the Los Angeles Times had already posted the video online, allowing the world to see the trigger-happy cops employed by the city of Gardena.
So score one for transparency, even if it took two years and an untold amount in legal fees.
Attorneys representing the plaintiffs argued that the recordings show that officers opened fire even though it was clear the men were unarmed. The city disagreed, saying officers couldn’t see one of Diaz Zeferino’s hands and believed he was going to reach for a weapon.
The city recently settled the lawsuit, but Gardena officials have fought to prevent the videos from becoming public. Organizations representing law enforcement leaders across California submitted court papers supporting Gardena’s efforts to keep the records sealed.
The city argued that it had agreed to the legal settlement in part to keep the video from becoming public. Gardena also contended that releasing the video would deter police from using such cameras and would endanger the safety of the officers at a time of heightened public criticism of police killings.
Endanger the safety of officers? What about the safety of citizens? The videos show why all cops need to be on camera during every moment of their shifts.
The incident took place on June 2, 2013 after Gardena police were responding to a call about a stolen bike outside a CVS store, pulling up to the scene and spotting two men on bicycles, whom they ordered to stop and place their hands in the air.
This is how it was originally reported in the San Jose Mercury News, who still haven’t bothered to correct its typo:
Several police officers shot a man to death in Gardena on Sunday when he interfered in their attempts to detain two men in a robbery investigation, reaching for his waistband and advancing toward them, an official account of the shooting said Moonday.
“Believing the suspect was arming himself, several officers fired at the suspect, striking him in the upper torso,” the Sheriff’s Department statement said.
The statement does not indicate whether the man had a gun.
The original two men detained were actually friends of the victim who had his bike stolen, but because the dispatcher mentioned that it was a “robbery,” which usually means weapons were involved, the cops were terrified for their lives, which is why they kept their guns trained on the men.
Then another friend came running up, trying to explain to the cops that they were detaining the wrong people, but that made the cops even more fearful for their lives as they ordered him to place his hands in the air.
The videos show that at one point, one of the men with his hands in the air lowers his arms, which was when they opened fire, killing him and injuring a second man.
Gardena police explained that he was “reaching,” which is one of the magic words they are trained to use to justify killing whomever they want, whenever they want.
But the video shows Ricardo Diaz Zeferino was not reaching. And that is why the city of Gardena tried so hard to keep the video from going public.