Los Angeles

Judge Orders Release of Fatal Police Shooting Video

A federal judge has ordered a suburban Los Angeles city to release video of police fatally shooting an unarmed man two years ago.

Judge Stephen Wilson said Tuesday that the public should be able to see what led the city of Gardena to pay $4.7 million to settle a lawsuit.

The Associated Press and other news media argued there was intense interest in the videos because of scrutiny of police shootings nationwide.

Footage shot from three police-car cameras reportedly shows the killing of Ricardo Diaz-Zeferino. Prosecutors declined to charge four officers in the death after reviewing the videos and interviewing witnesses.

Lawyers for Diaz-Zeferino's family and a friend who was wounded say the videos will let the public decide whether the shooting was justified.

Police were responding to a call about a stolen bicycle when they confronted Diaz-Zeferino and two other men.

In the video, Diaz-Zeferino can be seen putitng his hands in the air, and then back down.

Gardena Police Chief Ed Medrano told NBC4 that the officers were justified.

"He was not complying with his orders. Officers could not see his hands at one point. Detailed analysis is in the District Attorney's opinion letter," he said.

He said he was concerned about the precedent the release of the video sets for future recordings.

"We don't want our community members to feel distrustful of us because they know at some point their situation may end up on video or on the Internet. There's a balanced approach," he said.

Medrano said the initial investigation led to a just outcome.

"We understand this is a tragic incident. And they were the wrong people. This case has been litigated for a number of years. Those officers only had seconds to make a split second decision," he said.

The ACLU of Southern California said it sees the decision as a chance for other police departments to consider policies that often withhold dashcam and body camera footage from the public.

"We hope that today’s decision will prompt the Los Angeles Police Department and others to revisit their misguided stance on withholding video from body cameras and dash cameras. It is only through an informed understanding of how their government systems operate, and how government officials conduct themselves, that the people are able to judge whether those systems and officials are conducting their business faithfully," the statement read.

"And it is only through knowledge of specific incidents that the people may hold their officers accountable for the results of poor policies or bad judgment, and deter similar miscarriages in the future. The government’s law enforcement function is not immune from this basic precept of transparency. Disclosure of information about the actions and operations of police is vital to maintaining responsible, accountable police departments."

Lolita Lopez, Beverly White and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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