Looking For A Bike While Brown
Another murder in the street of another hapless unarmed guy by cops who told another different story from the grisly one revealed, after a long legal fight, by newly released video. The night of June 2, 2013, police got a call about a bike stolen outside a CVS drugstore. Video from the responding patrol cars shows cops stopping two men on bikes, friends of the man with the stolen bike, and the man's brother, 35-year-old Ricardo Diaz Zeferino, all of whom were helping look for it.
The cops could have talked to them. The cops could have issued a warning. The cops could have tasered them. Instead, they drew their guns and started screaming at them to keep their hands in the air. The two friends complied, motionless. Zeferino, who was reportedly drunk and high on meth, put his hands up and down several times, looking confused, a laser dot wavering on his chest. When he pulled off his baseball cap and put his hands down again to show cops they were empty, he was shot eight times and collapsed. One of the friends was also hit and went down; he survived. A subsequent lawsuit brought by Zeferino's family says that he lay on the ground crying, “Hasta aqui llegue" - this is the end of me.
Police argued the shooting was justified because Zeferino was acting erratically and seemed to reach for a weapon in his waistband, and the D.A. declined to charge the three cops who opened fire - Christopher Mendez, Christopher Sanderson and Matthew Toda. The city settled the Zeferino lawsuit for $4.7 million, but spent two years fighting media requests for release of dashboard video they said would create a "rush to judgment," using a series of incoherent arguments - “We worry about the implications (of) its impact on victims and average citizens who are recorded by the police” - that boiled down to: We've already spent $4.7 million of taxpayers' money to hide the truth so why let it out now.
Just so, said a federal judge Tuesday, who ruled that in fact such expenditure "only strengthens the public’s interest in seeing the video." He then ordered it released, an act the families supported. The move was seen as a victory for "accountability journalism" by the the Los Angeles Times, the A.P. and Bloomberg. Once released, it was clear why the city had fought so hard and long to suppress it; damning and graphic, the video shows the cold-blooded shooting of an unarmed man - or, in the words of attorney Samuel Paz, "Very much a criminal act." Gardena Police Chief Ed Medrano released a statement late Tuesday calling the shooting “tragic for all involved.” Maybe. Mostly, though, for Ricardo Diaz Zeferino. And, of course, all the rest.
Warning: video disturbing.