Attorneys and relatives of Ricardo Diaz-Zeferino, an unarmed man who was fatally shot by Gardena police officers two years ago, held a news conference Wednesday morning where they called for a federal investigation into the shooting and its aftermath.
Diaz-Zeferino, 35, “was a good brother, a human being, with a face, and we must not forget that that’s what this is about,” said Sonia Mercado, a civil rights attorney, speaking in front of the Edward R. Roybal Federal Building.
Diaz-Zeferino was one of three men who were mistakenly suspected of stealing a bicycle when they were approached by Gardena Police Department officers on the evening of June 2, 2013, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The encounter was captured on dashcam videos, which show the officers pointing their weapons at the men while ordering to keep their hands up.
In the footage, an apparently confused Diaz-Zeferino is seen raising raising and dropping his hands repeatedly while the other two men remain still. After Diaz-Zeferino removes a baseball cap from his head, the officers open fire and he falls to the ground along with his friend Eutiquio Mendez, who was hit in the back and survived.
Despite Gardena’s efforts to prevent the videos from being publicly released, they were published Tuesday as the result of a legal challenge filed by The Times, Associated Press and Bloomberg.
On Wednesday morning, Mendez and others called for the Department of Justice to open an investigation into the shooting.
“What they did to us was unjust,” he said in Spanish, as Mercado translated. Local officials “said they were going to investigate everything but as of now nothing has been done — the officers continue to work,” he added.
Gardena settled a lawsuit over the shooting for $4.7 million over the incident. Attorneys for the city the settlement was reached with the understanding that the dashcam videos would never be made public.
However, U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson subsequently stated in a written opinion that it was in the public’s interest to view the footage, The Times reported.
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,” Wilson said in his ruling. “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.”