Crime & Justice

Judge orders release of video from 2013 fatal police shooting in Gardena

Taser International is now selling police departments the technology to store videos from body cameras. A judge's recent ruling may mean more of the video captured could eventually be released to the public.
Taser International is now selling police departments the technology to store videos from body cameras. A judge's recent ruling may mean more of the video captured could eventually be released to the public.
Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal judge has ordered the release of police dashboard camera video from a 2013 fatal police shooting of an unarmed man in Gardena. You can watch the video here:

AP video

The ruling, by U.S. Judge Stephen Wilson of the Central District of California, comes a day after Wilson said he couldn't find a valid reason to keep the video of Ricardo Diaz Zeferino's death sealed. The case is especially relevant as law enforcement agencies move to equip all officers with body cameras, exponentially increasing the amount of video available.

The city of Gardena paid out $4.7 million to Diaz Zeferino's family and another man wounded in the shooting.

"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 in his 13-page decision. "Moreover, defendants cannot assert a valid compelling interest in sealing the videos to cover up any wrongdoing on their part or to shield themselves from embarrassment."

Diaz Zeferino, 34, was unarmed when Gardena officers shot and killed him while investigating the theft of his brother's bicycle from outside a CVS Pharmacy after 2 a.m. on June 2, 2013, according a report by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.

The shooting came after two other men -- Jose Garcia and Eutiquio Acevedo, friends of the victim's brother -- were detained by police in 1600 block of West Redondo Beach Boulevard. The men were attempting to chase the suspected bike thieves.

Diaz Zeferino came upon Garcia and Acevedo being detained and began running toward the scene. DA's records state officers repeatedly told Diaz Zeferino to stop moving toward them and to stop moving his hands up and down near his waistband. Diaz Zeferino was shot after he didn't obey officers' commands to stand still with his hands in the air.

The District attorney reviewed the case and found the officers were justified to shoot. The review cited three videos captured from police dashboard cameras on the scene.

A lawyer representing The Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times and Bloomberg had asserted there is intense public scrutiny of police shootings nationwide. The media organizations asked the judge to unseal the videos under a First Amendment right to access court documents.

"We applaud the court's decision to unseal the video," AP spokesman Paul Colford said. "The Associated Press, joining with other news organizations, believes it's important that the public has access to videos like this to better understand the actions of their police officers."

Wilson rejected a request by Gardena to stay the ruling, but the city immediately filed a notice of appeal with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The city of Gardena argued that releasing the footage would create a "rush to judgment" about the officers' behavior, but Wilson dismissed that idea during arguments Monday. He said the public may see the videos and reach the same conclusion as prosecutors that the shooting was justified.

Gardena was joined by police chiefs and officer groups around the state in arguing that making such videos public would dissuade cities from employing the technology.

This story has been updated.