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In the five years since SDPD Officer Neal Browder shot and killed Fridoon Nehad – an unarmed, mentally ill man – in a Midway District alley, California has undergone a dramatic legal shift in how it handles police shootings.
Had changes in recent years been in place the night Browder shot Nehad, everything from the way prosecutors handled the case, to how information about the shooting became public, would have been handled differently, our Sara Libby writes in an analysis of the shifting dynamic, after additional records on the shooting became public through an ongoing civil case.
For one, California last year adopted a landmark law, AB 392, that changed the standard for when police can use deadly force. At the time, officers could use deadly force if it was reasonable for them to fear for their life. Now, the question is whether the force is “necessary” to defend their lives.
Browder shot Nehad less than five seconds after arriving on the scene, and a U.S. Appeals court ruled on the Nehad family’s civil suit found there were questions about how reasonable the shooting was, and whether Nehad posed a legitimate threat.
Also, a state law, and SDPD procedure change, both strengthened requirements for officers to de-escalate situations, which could have applied to Browder. A 2019 law also made it easier for the public to see police investigative records, like those recently unsealed through the Nehad family’s civil suit. SDPD also strengthened its requirements for body-worn cameras – which Browder failed to turn on before making contact – after the Nehad shooting. And the county has set out clear requirements for releasing footage of police shootings – with a 2019 state law doing the same – after news outlets including Voice of San Diego sued to compel release of the Nehad shooting’s footage back in 2015.
COVID-19 Is Worse in San Diego Than Ever
Remember the month of April when beaches and businesses shut down and “quarantine” was still foreign vernacular in our daily lives? Three months ago, San Diego began flattening it’s curve, a trend that lasted a hot second.
Beaches and businesses reopened. Regulations relaxed some, but the flight of the COVID curve never did.
July is now the deadliest month for the coronavirus pandemic in San Diego County since it began. Thirty percent of total county COVID-19 deaths happened in July, the Union-Tribune reported.
As of July 29, San Diego has 28,005 cases. On June 30, there were 14,623. On April 30, there were 3,711. (Insert arbitrary statement here about the fact that testing wasn’t consistently robust throughout so it’s conceivable these numbers don’t capture the full picture.)
But the magnificent spike upward is obvious. COVID-19 is still very much here as is the well-accepted science worldwide that wearing masks out in public significantly reduces your risk of getting infected — or infecting others.
The head of San Diego’s top COVID treatment hospital, Scripps Health, told KPBS Tuesday he’s worried people are forgetting these numbers are also people. Four COVID patients recently died in one night at that hospital.
“Six months ago, if four people died of a virus in the hospital in one night, that would’ve made front-page news; Now it’s just a statistic,” Chris Van Gorder said.
Young people, ages 20-29, while the most likely to survive the virus are also most likely ignoring protective measures to prevent its spread. San Diego County data shows over 25 percent of the positive cases since Feb. 14 fall within that age group.
The county is getting dangerously close to breaching hospital capacity: 71 percent of all hospital beds are occupied. We’ve already crossed the state’s threshold of the acceptable rate of COVID case growth: that’s 100 per 100,000 people for a two week period. San Diego is at 130. And, we’ve had 20 new community outbreaks in a week.
Van Gorder couldn’t have said it better: Wear “a goddamn mask.”
If we had 80 percent compliance with face covering mandates, we could reduce transmission between 50 and 60 percent, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said Wednesday.
Enforcement stumble: NBC reported that San Diego County cited a Pacific Beach gym (called The Gym) for its link to three positive COVID-19 tests, which is considered a community outbreak and one of the tracked measures that factor into countywide precautions. (NBC7)
The U-T reported the gym had been operating illegally after the owner refused to close.
“Last week, when we were trying to get them to close, we didn’t know they were on the outbreak list,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county public health officer.
VOSD at Home Returns: On Schools
School districts are not reopening physical campuses and the full impact of that is dawning on people as we cruise through summer, when schools aren’t usually open anyway. To process it all, Scott Lewis re-started the Voice of San Diego at Home livestream show with a roundup of the news about schools from Will Huntsberry.
Councilman Chris Cate then joined Lewis to discuss his proposals for helping families, who are now expected to co-teach more intensively, with tax credits and stipends. He listed ways he was hoping the school districts experimented with outdoor spaces and other adaptations to be able to serve students in person.
Outdoors is on the table: The Atlantic wrote about the promise of outdoor education and quoted an unenthusiastic San Diego Unified official: “There was no proposal for outdoor learning that I recall. It was not part of the conversation in board meetings,” said Maureen Magee, the district’s communications director.
Magee later clarified on Twitter that “The use of outdoor space is among the options under consideration by individual schools as they plan how to welcome students back to campus.”
New Poway plan: Poway Unified’s superintendent once said explicitly that students would either do their educations online or in person but there would not be any hybrid option. That has now changed. “When we are cleared to reopen physically, our on campus plans will be modified to build in physical distancing in classrooms and on campuses with staggered starts (AM/PM model) or alternating days (A/B model).”
The district is asking parents to fill out a “commitment form” that doesn’t appear to include a full-time on campus option.
In Other News
- A 27-year-old former San Diego County sheriff deputy pleaded not guilty to having sex with at least four underage girls between 12 and 14. (Union-Tribune)
- A San Diego law firm is threatening a lawsuit against the San Diego City Council alleging its environment committee held a “series of secret serial meetings” before it officially approved terms for a new franchise fee agreement. San Diego Gas and Electric holds the current agreement, slated to expire on Jan. 17. (Union-Tribune)
- The feds gave a San Diego start-up emergency approval for an apparently cheap and pretty accurate blood test that detects COVID-19 antibodies under 10 min. The male CEO compared it to a pregnancy test, but we’re not sure why. (Union-Tribune)
- A weekend heat wave is slated to start Thursday and continue through Saturday with temperatures in some areas breaching 120 degrees in eastern parts of the county. (NBC7)
- A development targeted at housing homeless individuals at the Del Mar Fairgrounds will likely not move forward. (San Diego Reader)
The Morning Report was written by MacKenzie Elmer and Andrew Keatts, and edited by Scott Lewis.