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District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis on Tuesday released private surveillance footage of the police shooting that claimed the life of Fridoon Rawshan Nehad in late April in the city’s Midway district.
Dumanis’ decision came two days before Nehad’s family would have been allowed to release the video, per a federal court order. Dumanis said she acted because the court’s decision didn’t apply to her and it was clear no one was going to appeal the decision. Previously, Dumanis, Mayor Kevin Faulconer, the majority of the City Council, Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman and Officer Neal Browder, who shot Nehad, all opposed the video’s release.
Dumanis released the video and several other pieces of evidence that she said backed up her decision not to charge Browder, but declined to release other documents related to the case, including the officer’s statements following the incident.
Browder was responding to a 911 call about a man threatening people with a knife in an adult bookstore. Browder encountered Nehad, who was having a manic episode, in an alleyway behind the bookstore. Nehad turned out not to have a knife, and instead was holding a pen.
The video, which is graphic, shows Browder arriving, exiting his police car and, shortly afterward, shooting Nehad. Nehad appears to have been slowing and might have been stopped when he was hit. The shooting occurs around the 4-minute, 20-second mark in the video. The original surveillance video had no sound, but Dumanis edited the video to include police radio traffic communicating that the suspect had a knife. We did not edit what Dumanis provided.
This is the only video we’re aware of that captures the entire shooting. Browder did not turn on his body camera before the incident.
Last month, Dumanis declined to prosecute Browder and said that it was reasonable for him to have felt threatened by Nehad, who was 42. In general, prosecutors have a very high bar when deciding to file charges against police officers in on-duty shootings.
In Dumanis’ letter explaining her decision, she argued that the video did not provide a great perspective of the shooting because it was mounted more than 20 feet in the air and more than 70 feet from where Browder was standing. But Dumanis also said the video supported the officer’s version of events because she said it showed Nehad advancing toward him.
On Tuesday, during an hour-long news conference Dumanis reiterated that Browder had a reasonable belief that he was threatened and provided a host of information supporting her view. In addition to overlaying the video with police radio traffic, Dumanis showed surveillance video prior to the shooting that she said showed Nehad was threatening people with what they believed was a knife. She also showed video of Nehad stashing a knife sheath — though the officer wouldn’t have known about that that before the shooting — a photo of the pen Nehad had on him at the time of the shooting and an unrelated video of a man demonstrating how a butterfly knife worked in an attempt to show how the officer might have been led to believe Nehad had a knife.
Federal law enforcement officials are now reviewing the case.
Nehad’s family received a copy of the video after filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the city, but only on the condition that they couldn’t release it publicly. In August, Voice of San Diego, KPBS, the Union-Tribune, 10 News and inewsource together filed a motion to allow the family to release the video and other information from the case, including Browder’s initial statement to homicide investigators. Dumanis refused to release Browder’s statement as part of Tuesday’s press conference.
Last week, U.S. District Court Judge William Q. Hayes agreed with the media’s request to lift the protective order, but gave the city and the officer a week to appeal his ruling before it took effect. Barring any appeals, the family would have been allowed to release the video and other information from the case on Thursday.