A video (below) of a police shooting in Gardena, California, on June 2, 2013, has been released after the City of Gardena kept it from public view for more than two years.
The graphic video shows Gardena Police Officers Christopher Mendez, Christopher Sanderson and Matthew Toda shooting two unarmed men, killing one, because they mistook them — and one other man — for suspected bicycle thieves.
The officers are seen from two different angles yelling at the men to keep their hands up.
Two of the men do not move, but Ricardo Diaz Zeferino raises and drops his hands.
Diaz Zeferino was fatally shot hit with eight bullets, while Eutiquio Acevedo Mendez was wounded, notes Los Angeles Times.
U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson ordered the City of Gardena to release the video on July 14.
Diaz Zeferino’s family and lawyer are expected to demand a federal investigation into the city's practices regarding internal investigations for police-related shootings.
The City of Gardena paid a $4.7 million settlement to Diaz Zeferino’s family and claimed the deal included keeping the video hidden from the public.
Wilson wrote in his decision: "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."
The Los Angeles Times and other news agencies had asked the court to release the video.
The City of Gardena asked the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to keep the video under wraps, but that favorable ruling came after the video had been released to the press.
Gardena Police Chief Ed Medrano said his police officers will start wearing body cams, but he doesn't want that footage released to the public. Wilson noted the citizens of Gardena pay police salaries.
"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. We worry about the implications of this decision and its impact on victims and average citizens who are recorded by the police."
Diaz Zeferino’s family supported the request of the Los Angeles Times to release the video.
Deputy District Attorney Rosa Alarcon refused to press charges against the police and wrote in her decision: "They made a split-second decision and they were not required to hold fire in order to ascertain whether Diaz would, in fact, injure or kill them."
Diaz Zeferino was apparently not armed, not guilty and there was no evidence he made any threatening gestures.
Medrano told NBC Los Angeles the officers were justified in the fatal shooting of Diaz Zeferino:
"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."
Medrano added that exposing the video might cause feelings of distrust:
"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."
WARNING: Graphic Video