A dramatic video showing Gardena police officers shooting two unarmed men – one fatally – is reigniting a controversial debate about police use of force. Like other cases that have taken place over the past two years, some people view the same video in very different ways.
A judge’s decision to release the tape capped moths of legal battles, with the city trying desperately to keep the video private.
Police have said the shooting was justified and that the dash cam videos from the squad cars don’t tell the whole story of how the incident unfolded. An attorney for the city said this week that one of the videos “looks bad” but that it was not taken from the perspective of officers, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Still, the city shelled out $4.7 million to settle a federal lawsuit with victims of the controversial act.
Attorneys for the men say the video clearly depicts they were not a threat to the public.
“The videos show cold-blooded shooting of clearly unarmed men,” attorney R. Samuel Paz said.
The shooting took place around 2:30 a.m. on June 2, 2013, after a bicycle was stolen outside a CVS pharmacy on Western Avenue, in Gardena. A police dispatcher mistakenly told officers there was a robbery, which usually involves a theft using weapons or force, prompting officers to head to the area in search of the two suspects.
Sgt. Christopher Cuff saw two men riding bikes east on Redondo Beach Boulevard. The men were friends with the bike theft victim and were searching for the missing bicycle. Mistaking them for the thieves, Cuff ordered the men to stop and put their hands in the air.
Ricardo Diaz Zeferino, whose brother owned the stolen bicycle, ran up to his friends as they stood before the police car. A dash cam video shows him yelling at Cuff, who screamed in English and Spanish for Diaz Zeferino to stop coming forward, the district attorney’s memo said.
Officers shot the man after he was warned twice not to move his hands.