District Attorney Releases San Diego Police Shooting Video
Surveillance video shows San Diego police officer shooting, killing unarmed man
Our top story on Midday Edition, after buying the release of surveillance video evidence of four months, the San Diego County VA released a tape today showing the shooting death of Fridoon Rawshan Nehad last April. The video takes place in an alley in the midweek district and shows Fridoon Rawshan Nehad approaching the police car of officer Neil Browder and then Fridoon Rawshan Nehad falling to the ground soon after. KPBS Metro Reporter was at today's news conference Andrew Bowen he joins us now. Welcome to the program. Thank you. In the first place, the district attorney Dumanis say why she was releasing the video now? Miss Dumanis said she wanted the video to be released responsibly. Similar incidents across the country have led to serious protests and unrest. I think it's really in her interest to make sure that this video was released responsibly in context I think that is are certainly her point of view. She did say that she did not communicate with the family of Fridoon Rawshan Nehad. They are also in possession of the video. They could have released it after the judge lifted the protective order. I've just four days before Christmas, one could possibly expect that the family might have waited until after the holidays. But this Dumanis decided to do it now and I think she wanted to do it because she could do it irresponsible manner. Andrew, how to care for a place on the video? Were several videos actually. The first one was of Mister knee-high -- Mister Nehad in a bookstore who had been -- with had the police called on him for threatening in a play. Was also video of Fridoon Rawshan Nehad having an encounter with a bouncer with a knife. And there's video in the alleyway the most high-profile Nehadvideo. That shows Mister walking to the alleyway twirling something in his hands even though you cannot quite tell what is. We found out later that it was in fact a pen. Although 911 calls reported he had been holding a knife the approached the officer, the officer gets out of his car, we did not hear audio, it was synced with the dispatch communications between police officers and the dispatcher, but we did not hear the audio on the police officer saying drop the weapon although witnesses said he did say that. You see the weapon fire. You see Mister Nehad fall to the ground with the officer rushing to him and administering first aid. Then there was the pod camera video that was released. Officer Browder did not turn on his body cameras there is no footage from that but there were other officers who arrived shortly thereafter. Their body camera footage was also released. That shows them are writing at the scene, you could hear officer Browder asking to bring God. The officer runs back to his car and brings cause to the car -- to the victim. This is the first time that we the public are seeing the video. Law enforcement have had this video for months. No matter what happens, there will be no prosecution of officer Neil Browder and is that correct? That is correct. The District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said there is no crime that has been committed. Officer had reasonable fear for his life. There is however a parallel investigation happening at the federal level. The FBI is investigating this incident took. Several reporters asked Bonnie Dumanis if she could speak to the status of the federal investigation. She said she could not. We would have to talk to the FBI and the federal -- the nicest attorney. What was the atmosphere the news conference today? When she showing the video it was completely silent. I think everyone in the room there really felt the seriousness of the situation. This man was mentally ill, he was reportedly in a manic state when the incident happened. What occurred was very serious. A man lost his life. So I think everybody in the room really felt the gravity of that work we were watching someone who was losing his life. The District Attorney Dumanis reference anything about the climate in the country in general about police videos, about police officers shooting unarmed suspects, that may have influenced her decision to hold onto this video for such a long time? She did say that in our world, we have increasingly amount of video surveillance footage. The public is still deciding what we are going to do with all of that footage. She said that she is hopeful that the footage being released will not just trigger a discussion about when this study should be made public, and what consideration should be made there. But also there also should be discussion about mental illness and how our society deals with mental illness and how our law enforcement does as well. And one of the things that I noticed that District Attorney Dumanis said is that she said she never held a news conference like this before. Did she elaborate on that at all? I think she was referring to the fact that, you know, in the past we did not have as much of video footage in these incidents. A case like this 20 years ago could have been open a closed. But the added elements of their actually being surveillance footage where people can see what happens from different perspectives of course, it's not that you can only see one perspective. She did say repeatedly that this was only part of the puzzle. But I think she was saying this added -- with the development of technology where increasingly be faced with the question of what do we do with this video? Who has the right to see this video? And when should be made public? I had been speaking with KPBS Metro Reporter Andrew Bowen . Andrew thank you so much. BBSs one of the media outlets that suit for release of the police shooting video. The video is graphic and disturbing and KPBS will airports of the video but we will not show the actual shooting. We'll have more on that on evening edition later today. Right now I am joint by San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis . Thank you so much for joining us. Hi Maureen. How are you doing. I am doing fine thank you. Let me ask you the same question that I asked Andrew because I think you can answer a little better. Earlier this year you said you are inclined not to release this video, today you release the video and more video. Why do that now? There were two things that stop me from releasing the video when we announced that decision. One was that there was a federal protective order in the civil case that we were aware of. And I gave deference to that order. In the second thing was we became aware that the FBI was investigating and the US attorney were investigating and so I did not want to do anything that would jeopardize the integrity of that case but what happened in between was that a federal judge determined that the video could be released. He stated that release for seven days. So the parties could appeal if they felt so inclined. The city attorney and the mayor of San Diego. Right away -- San Diego posted right away be without appeal. We check with the other party and officer Browder and his attorney and they were not going to appeal. And we knew the family was involved as well that they wanted to get the video. Hence, the things that prevented me from releasing it before, were satisfied work so I felt it was important to release it in a responsible way. So what we did was put together the full and complete picture. The things leading up to when officer Browder drove down the alley and when he drove down the alley and the shooting, and we did some magnifying a some of the thinks of it was better to see. But these are videos that are not necessarily the best, but it is one view. Is not officer Browder's view, but each and every witness that was interviewed help that it was a knife as well. Know what aspects of the video and the additional materials that you are releasing do you think support your decision not to process officer Browder? Press conference wasn't about my review. But the evidence leading up to the officer, Mr. Nehad was chasing an employee of the bookstore . He believed he had a knife and was threatening him. Mr. Nehad did go in and we had video this as well, went into the bookstore, a person at the cash register and an employee that was stocking shelves said he saw a knife. 911 was called and it went out over the air that it was a hot call with a knife. As well as he then went to one of the other places there and showed the bouncer what the bouncer believed was a knife. That led up to what happened. And I personally went out and reviewed all of this. At midnight, at the time we have been, with the moon in the same place, and could see where the area was. And then also, the history of Mister not -- the history of Mr. Nehad that goes to our decision about whether or not to file charges because with his history of mental illness and violence, it would come in to a trial if we were to file criminal charges. It all goes to whether or not the officers believe was reasonable as to reasonable -- as to whether or not he believed that was a knife. The officer said he believed it was a knife, he said that he believed he feared he was going to be stabbed, and based on all that, the totality of circumstances we made our decision. He was not armed though. Missed -- Mr. Nehad was not actually armed with a knife? No. he had a pen. But as I display today there are 10 nights, and he is seen in the video twirling what looked like something similar to a butterfly knife and we actually showed video of how the butterfly knife is twirled and how it operates. So the perception of the officer was corroborated by all of the witnesses and the manner in which he was holding it, at a 90 degree angle, corroborated the officers believe that it was in fact a weapon. A knife. Now the video, District Attorney Dumanis shows the officer was still protected by his card or from any advance by Mr. Nehad . Does that square with the officer telling you that he thought that his life was in danger? Yes. Because first of all, we also showed a still picture of the three witnesses that were present at the same time. The officer has a duty to protect all of those citizens as well as himself. But he does not have the luxury of just getting back into his car and leaving. He has a duty to contain the public safety aspects. And he did it-based on his 27 years of experience. And what he saw and what he sensed was that everything that happened mate he believed that he was in immediate threat. In the video, as you say, it is from one location and it's a little difficult to see, but do we know how far away the officer was from Mr. Nehad when he was shot. What we were able to determine by lighting up video with markers, like a telephone pole -- where they were standing in that sort of thing. We measured that, which is the most accurate that we could get. It was 17 feet. Actually went out to seem to see how close 17 feet was and it felt very close. Now you are saying you have never held a news conference like this before. And it is sort of in reference to the fact that we are in a new era now with so many videos showing so many different aspects of police involved shootings. Write. While in general, but I think we have all watched as things have evolved over the entire nation, but also as technology has improved in how video from cell phones as well as body cameras, as well as surveillance video, is more and more available and goes viral No. so we really do need to re-examine and reevaluate how we handle those cases so we can never one to it as efficiently as possible, so we expedite our reviews. So we do not jeopardize the criminal case which is our responsibility as a prosecutor. But also balance the needs of the public to view -- to view the video because there is a benefit to understanding what happens in a police officer involved shooting case. One last question for you, Bonnie Dumanis, that is, can you tell us why releasing the officers -- that is Officer Neal Browder original statement would be irresponsible in the light of the fact that the video is now out? I mention his statement and I think it is in the letter as well. But there are pages and pages of other documents. The lifting of the order came quickly. We put together what we thought was relevant and for public safety. Additionally, I believe the officer probably has rights under the peace officer Bill of Rights to some of that. But be that as it may, we were trying to present the entire picture in a responsible way that show the context of everything that happened. Our review is an impartial review. It is a review that had we determined that he across the line and anyway, we would wild criminal charges So you think you will not be releasing that initial statement because of considerations for officer Browder and his privacy rights? We are not going to release all of the information not just officer broader statement, but the witness statements, the other physical evidence, first of all a lot of it is very graphic it is in deference to the family who have lost someone they love. As well as the witnesses, who came forward. It is a chilling impact if you put out witness statements and that sort of thing. There was nothing hidden. I would not do these in an exculpatory manner. We still that putting it in the context was responsible and protect the public safety. I have been speaking with San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis . Thank you so much for joining us. Thank you, Maureen.
A security camera video of a San Diego police officer shooting and killing an unarmed man released Tuesday shows the man crossing an alley toward the officer’s patrol car, then the officer firing a single shot and the man falling to the ground.
District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis showed the video at a news conference and released copies of the video to the media. She also showed other videos and still frames, including footage from a responding officer's body worn camera.
Fridoon Rawshan Nehad, 42, was shot and killed on April 30 by San Diego police Officer Neal Browder outside Hi-Lite Bookstore, an adult bookstore in the Midway District. While a 911 call reported a man near the bookstore was threatening people with a knife, Nehad was not armed. He was carrying a pen, which Browder mistook as a knife.
The pen could only be faintly seen in the surveillance video. Dumanis also showed a photo of the pen, which was blue with a silver tip. She showed a video of Nehad twirling the pen, which Dumanis said was similar in style to how someone might twirl a butterfly knife.
Related: San Diego Attorneys Say Officer-Involved Shooting Appears Unjustified
The district attorney then showed an unrelated video of an unknown person twirling a butterfly knife to demonstrate the similarities to what Nehad was doing. However, the knife in the video was much larger than a pen, and the man in the video twirled it in front of his body in larger movements, not in a lowered hand as the video of Nehad showed.
KPBS and inewsource joined three other media organizations that went to federal court seeking release of the video of the shooting. Their attorney argued the video was “one neutral view of what happened that night, and the public is entitled to see it.”
Last week, a U.S. District Court judge ruled the video of the shooting could be released in response to a lawsuit brought by KPBS and four other local media outlets. The family of the victim obtained the video in their own federal lawsuit and said they would be willing to release it.
The judge gave until Wednesday at midnight for that ruling to be appealed. Dumanis said Tuesday that neither the city nor Browder would appeal the release.
In November, the district attorney announced no charges would be filed against Browder over the shooting. She said after that decision was made, her office still did not immediately release the video because of an ongoing investigation into the shooting by the FBI.
Dumanis did not wait for the family to release the video themselves. She said she did not communicate with the family on Tuesday before releasing the video and said she did not wait because "it should be released in a responsible way."
"The video in and of itself does not tell a complete story," she said, which is why she also showed other surveillance videos, footage from the body camera and still photos.
Skip Miller, an attorney for Nehad's family, said the family was "surprised and puzzled" by Dumanis' decision to release the videos and by her comments.
“The DA went out of her way to justify her decision not to prosecute the officer," Miller said. "She made the wrong decision and now she’s going overboard to try to explain it and justify it."
Miller said Nehad's family wants Browder "taken off the street."
"They want him retrained," he said. "They frankly want him prosecuted.”
Miller said they plan to release more evidence from the family's civil case on Wednesday, including the statement of Browder taken after the shooting.
Joseph Dicks, a lawyer with Dicks & Workman Attorneys at Law, who was not involved with the case, said Dumanis' decision to release the video before the family could was likely "entirely motivated by public relations."
"You want to control the message," he said. "To preempt a grieving family is calculated.”
The video of the shooting was just a minute long, and from a security camera mounted on a nearby building. It showed Nehad walk toward Browder’s patrol car, which had its headlights on but not its flashing lights. Then Browder fires on Nehad, who falls to the ground and kicks his legs in the air. Browder runs to Nehad and kneels over him.
Footage from the body camera of another responding officer shows Browder shouting that he needs gauze as he helps Nehad. Dumanis said Browder also used his finger to attempt to plug the bullet hole in Nehad’s chest.
Surveillance video from inside the adult bookstore before Nehad was shot shows him walk up to the cashier and gesture with his arm. Dumanis said the cashier believed Nehad had a knife.
The district attorney also showed surveillance video showing what she said was Nehad hiding a knife sheath in between a stack of sandbags outside the bookstore. She then showed a photo of the knife sheath she said Nehad hid there.
She also showed a video of Nehad walking up to a bouncer at a nearby nightclub. Dumanis said Nehad pulled what looked like the tip of a knife from his pocket and pointed to it, but from the surveillance video it was unclear what was actually in Nehad’s pocket.
Nehad was diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, according to his family’s lawsuit against the city. He was born and grew up in Afghanistan and was drafted into the Afghan army as a teenager, according to the lawsuit.
“While serving, he was captured by one of the Mujahideen groups,” the court filing says. “He spent nearly two months in captivity and was only released after his mother met face-to-face with the kidnappers and pleaded for the release of her son.”
The filing said Nehad “likely was tortured” and suffered from PTSD after his kidnapping. He followed his parents to the United States in 2003 and went to jail for burglary in 2008. His mother, a U.S. citizen, filed a restraining order against him shortly before he was killed, because police told her it would help him get into a shelter, according to the lawsuit.
Dumanis said an estimated 50 percent of people shot by the police in the United States are mentally ill.
“We are also hopeful that part of the discussion generated by the release of these videos will be about how to better help the homeless who suffer from mental illness in San Diego County,” she said.
Nehad's family told the online news site Voice of San Diego that Nehad was not homeless, but liked to wander the streets at night.
While Officer Browder was wearing a body camera during his encounter with Nehad, he did not turn it on. After the shooting, the Police Department changed its body camera policy to require officers “to start recording prior to their arrival on radio calls that are likely to result in an enforcement contact." Previously, they had to begin recording just before making contact with a citizen.
San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman has said repeatedly she does not plan to make body camera video public except in a “riot type situation,” where public safety is at risk because of an uproar over a police shooting. She has been criticized for that stance, which is much stricter than in other large cities.
In a statement after the video's release on Tuesday, Zimmerman said, she respects the judge’s decision to allow the video to be released.
"The judge had to balance the importance of due process rights with the need for public disclosure while, at the same time, protecting the integrity of the investigations," the statement said. "Although the state criminal review has been completed, this case is still under review by the FBI, our Internal Affairs Unit, and will ultimately be reviewed by our independent Citizen’s Review Board on Police Practices."
Dumanis said on Tuesday that she had communicated with the Police Department before releasing the video to help officers prepare for potential protests in response.
“I'm aware they are aware of this and are making efforts to do whatever they think is necessary,” she said.
Dumanis said she and other law enforcement officials were convening a working group to decide whether police body camera footage should be released in the future.
“I’ve never held a news conference like this before. I’ve not provided video like this to the media,” she said.
She said she does not believe videos like this one should be released, but “I recognize that times have changed.”
“The constitutional rights of defendants must be protected and all law enforcement wants to be part of the solution to balance those rights with the public's desire to view this kind of video,” she said.