Helping a Friend Ends Up Being Mistaken For Thief and Killed By Police
On June 2, 2013, Ricardo Diaz Zeferino and Eutiquio Acevedo Mendez were helping a friend look for his stolen bike.
Police responded to a call about a bicycle stolen from outside a CVS drugstore on Western Avenue. The police dispatcher mistakenly told the officers that the crime was a robbery, which generally involves a theft using weapons or force. One of the suspects was described as wearing a yellow shirt.
The officers headed to the area in search of two suspects. Sergeant Christopher Cuff saw two men riding bicycles. Mistaking them for the thieves, Sergeant Cuff ordered the men to stop and put their hands up.
Diaz-Zeferino, whose brother owned the stolen bicycle, ran up to his friends as they stood before the police car. They tried to tell the police that the bike stolen belonged to his brother.
Cameras mounted inside the police patrol cars recorded parts of the June 2, 2013, fatal shooting of Ricardo Diaz Zeferino, who was struck by eight bullets. Eutiquio Acevedo Mendez, was wounded.
The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office concluded that the officers who shot the two unarmed men believed one of them was reaching for a weapon when they opened fire. The DA’s office stated that its conclusion was based on a review of video recordings captured by cameras in the officers’ patrol cars. The LA times provides the DA’s complete report.
What the videos show is not what the DA’s office claimed that it saw. It claimed that one of the men reached into his pockets and waistband area. Attorneys for the men who sued the City of Gardena disagreed, saying the videos captured by cameras in the police patrol cars show the “cold-blooded shooting of clearly unarmed men.” The city recently agreed to settle the lawsuit for $4.7 million.
The Los Angeles Times, the Associated Press and Bloomberg wanted the video publicly release. The City of Gardena, California fought to keep the video secret. It had filed the videos under seal in the federal civil rights lawsuit filed by Acevedo Mendez and relatives of Diaz Zeferino, and fought to keep it sealed on the basis that it settled the case under the assumption that the video would remained sealed.
Attorneys representing the plaintiffs argued that the recordings show that officers opened fire even though it was clear the men were unarmed. The city disagreed, saying officers couldn’t see one of Diaz Zeferino’s hands and believed he was going to reach for a weapon.
On July 14, 2015, U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson ordered the release of the videos, saying the public had an interest in seeing the recordings after the city settled the lawsuit. The dash cam videos show two perspectives of the incident. Both show police ordering the men to raise their hands. One of men keeps his hands raised throughout. The other lowers and raises them several times, at one point removing his cap. The officers respond by opening fire.
In rejecting the City of Gardena’s arguments to keep the videos under seal, Judge Wilson stated;
“However, [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,” Moreover, while the videos are potentially upsetting and disturbing because of the events they depict, they are not overly gory or graphic in a way that would make them a vehicle for improper purposes.”
More on this at the LA Times.
Posted on 07/15/2015, in Cases, Cops Gone Wild and tagged Acevedo Mendez, California, City of Gardena, Eutiquio Acevedo Mendez, release, Ricardo Diaz Zeferino, video. Bookmark the permalink. 32 Comments.