Gardena, Calif. – A federal judge ordered the release of a highly incriminating video that shows Gardena police officers gun down two men who were not only unarmed but posed no outward threat to officers.
Police dash cams recorded parts of the June 2, 2013, fatal shooting of Ricardo Diaz-Zeferino, who was shot eight times, with another man, Eutiquio Acevedo Mendez, being wounded in the attack.
The judge ordered the videos’ release, overriding the emphatic objection of police after the city settled a lawsuit relating to the shooting for $4.7 million, according to the Los Angeles Times. The judge qualified this decision by stating that there was an overriding public interest in the release of the footage.
The city, immediately after the ruling was issued, attempted to secure an order from the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, to stop the district court from enforcing its order to release the video. A judge subsequently granted the request, but by that time The Times had already obtained the videos and posted them to YouTube.
The cold-blooded killing occurred after police responded to a simple call regarding a stolen bike outside a local drugstore. Police allege that the dispatcher mistakenly relayed to responding officers that the crime was a robbery, which typically involves the use of force or weapons.
Officers responded to the area of the theft, when Sgt. Christopher Cuff came upon two men riding bicycles. The men were actually friends of the bike theft victim and were out searching for the stolen bicycle.
Tragically, Cuff assumed the men were the thieves and demanded they stop and raise their hands, according to a district attorney’s memo. As the two men stood in front of the police vehicle, Diaz-Zeferino, who was the brother of the theft victim, ran up to his detained friends. According to witness reports, Diaz-Zeferino yelled to the officer that they had the wrong people.
At this point, two more squad cars arrive on scene, with three more officers training their weapons on the good samaritans.
Not surprisingly, the district attorney’s memo attempts to justify the murder by the police, alleging Diaz-Inferno was reached for his waistband twice – which we all know is punishable by execution.
It’s important to note that claiming the suspect reached for their waistband, causing the officer to fear for their life, is the standard claim that officers attempt to use to justify the killing of unarmed individuals.
The video shows an officer yell, “You do it again, you’re going to get shot,” at Diaz-Zeferino, who removes his hat, lowering his hands. According to the DA’s memo, three officers then opened fire.
“The videos show the cold-blooded shooting of clearly unarmed men,” R. Samuel Paz, attorney for some of the victims, said.
The American Civil Liberties Union also weighed in on the case.
“Today’s federal court decision in a fatal Gardena police shooting is an important reminder that holding law enforcement accountable depends on the public’s access to information on police conduct,” read the statement.
The fact that police gunned down friends of the theft victim who were simply attempting to be good samaritans cannot be overstated. The warrior cop mentality displayed by these officers highlights exactly what is wrong with policing. Had the officers taken the time to de-escalate the situation, rather than to display a response based on fear and adrenaline, perhaps a life would have been saved, and a tragedy averted.
Jay Syrmopoulos is an investigative journalist, free thinker, researcher, and ardent opponent of authoritarianism. He is currently a graduate student at University of Denver pursuing a masters in Global Affairs. Jay’s work has been published on BenSwann’s Truth in Media, Chris Hedges’ truth-out, AlterNet and many other sites. You can follow him on Twitter @sirmetropolis, on Facebook at Sir Metropolis and now on tsu.