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WATCH: Unarmed man shot dead by police after taking his hat off

Police in California were forced to release the video, after keeping it hidden for two years.

gardena Source: AP

POLICE IN THE Los Angeles suburb of Gardena have been forced to release dashcam video of officers shooting dead an unarmed Latino man after he took his hat off.

Ricardo Diaz-Zeferino was killed in the early hours of 2 June, 2013, after he and two friends were stopped by police by the side of the road.

An error had led a police dispatcher to report a stolen bicycle as a robbery, rather than a theft, which led officers to expect to encounter armed perpetrators.

Neither Diaz-Zeferino nor his two friends were armed, and in a cruel irony, they had themselves been out searching for the bike, which belonged to the 34-year-old’s brother.

The Gardena police department ended up paying the victim’s family $4.7 million (€4.29 million) to settle a lawsuit, but fought for two years to keep footage of the shooting from being released.

Today, a federal judge in California ordered them to make the video available to the public, after lawsuits from the Associated Press, Bloomberg News, and the Los Angeles Times.

redondo The section of road where Ricardo Diaz-Zeferino was shot dead by police. Source: Google Maps

The footage shows the final moments of the encounter as an officer shouts, “Get your hands up” to the three men, who are standing with their backs to a path and arms in the air.

Diaz-Zeferino, who was found to have had alcohol and methamphetamine in his bloodstream, then lowered his hands and slowly took a few small steps forward.

He spread his arms out with palms open as if to plead with them. Told to put them back up, he complied, then removed his baseball cap and lowered his hands, before several shots were fired.

Footage filmed in front of him shows his palms open and facing upward. Footage from a second camera behind two of the officers show his right hand briefly swing out of view at his waist as they fire.

The officers said they feared he was reaching for a weapon.

What the videos don’t show is that he wasn’t armed, and witnesses said Zeferino was trying to tell police they had the wrong men.

Diaz-Zeferino crumpled to the ground after the gunfire. Eutiquio Acevedo Mendez, who was shot once and injured, toppled to the street and lay still.

Two minutes later, police handcuffed a bloody and limp Diaz-Zeferino. Nine minutes after he was shot, paramedics arrived.

Warning: This video is not graphic, but does include footage of a man being shot to death.

Source: Associated Press/YouTube

In his 13-page decision today, Judge Stephen V. Wilson said the public had a right to see what led the city of Gardena to pay $4.7 million to settle the lawsuit with Diaz-Zeferino’s family and Eutiquio Acevedo Mendez.

The fact that they spent the city’s money, presumably derived from taxes, only strengthens the public’s interest in seeing the videos.
Moreover, defendants cannot assert a valid compelling interest in sealing the videos to cover up any wrongdoing on their part or to shield themselves from embarrassment.

Contains reporting by the Associated Press.

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Dan MacGuill

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