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Our interview with the family of Fridoon Rawshan Nehad, the 42-year-old mentally ill man shot and killed by San Diego police in April, counters much of the public narrative about Nehad’s background and revealed the family’s perspective on its interaction with law enforcement.
Here are three big things we learned.
Nehad was close to his family, and his housing situation was much more complicated than law enforcement officials have said.
When she announced that Nehad’s shooting was legally justified last month, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said that Nehad was homeless and implied his family had distanced itself from him because of his violent outbursts.
Nehad’s mother and sisters say that’s not true.
When Nehad was having a manic episode, they said, he would wander the streets for days at a time, but he would always return to their mother’s home to shower and eat. “He loved city lights,” Nehad’s sister Benazeer Roshan said. “One thing he loved about San Diego was the lights. In a way he wasn’t alone, but people left him alone. He would just walk for hours.”
The family said Nehad often threatened violence toward them while he was having episodes, a criminal history Dumanis detailed extensively when describing her reasons for not prosecuting the officer. Indeed, Nehad’s mother had filed a restraining order against him less than three weeks before his death.
But Nehad’s family said the reason for that restraining order was to get Nehad into a mental health treatment facility, which required him to have no fixed address.
The family said they remained close to him.
The family believes the police were more interested in quelling any potential civic unrest than giving them basic information about Nehad’s death. SDPD also told them the only way to see video of the shooting was to file a lawsuit.
Roshan described the family’s interactions with San Diego police as “very devastating and frustrating.”
She said the family had to beg the police to tell them where Nehad was taken the night of the shooting and that they only learned he was unarmed after police said so in a press release.
The department repeatedly told the family they were not providing them with any information because they wanted to stop any potential public demonstrations over Nehad’s death.
“The one thing that they kept saying all along was, ‘Well, with everything that’s going on around the country we want to avoid a protest, we want to avoid a protest,’” Roshan said.
Roshan said she asked to see the surveillance video of the shooting multiple times, but a homicide investigator ultimately said that they wouldn’t get to watch it unless they sued the city and obtained it through discovery.
(SDPD declined to comment on the family’s statements.)
The family’s worst fear was that Nehad would be forced to return to Afghanistan, where he might be targeted for violence or even killed because of his mental illness. She never believed it would happen here.
Nehad had been captured by the mujahedeen during the Afghan wars in the 1980s and his mother rescued him from a prison camp. Ultimately, he gained refugee status in the United States and was reunited with his family, who also escaped from Afghanistan during the wars.
Nehad’s violence during his manic episodes had previously threatened his immigration status, and Roshan constantly worried about his fate if he were to be deported. The emotions were overwhelming after she watched the video of the shooting.
“You know that was my worst nightmare ever, for my brother to die like that, to be shot. We were always afraid that he was going to get deported to Afghanistan and I always told my parents, everybody was fighting tooth and nail to keep him in this country. I said that people with a mental disorder, for them to be deported to Afghanistan, one of the Taliban insurgents, that’s what they do to you. If they don’t have any use for you, they take out a gun and shoot you like that. I always thought that that was going to happen (in Afghanistan). But never in America. For me to see that, I told you there are no words to describe the devastation that you feel watching that.
It was my worst nightmare coming true in front of my eyes.”