Warning: This video contains graphic images
(FOX 11 / CNS) - A federal judge Tuesday ordered the release of videos showing the fatal police shooting of an unarmed Gardena man, which the Los Angeles Times posted online.
U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson ruled that police cruiser videos of the shooting should be unsealed after the Los Angeles Times, Associated Press
and Bloomberg argued that strong public interest demands their release.
Judge Alex Kozinski issued an emergency stay of Wilson's order until the matter could be heard by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal, Gardena Police
Department Chief Ed Medrano said.
However, the Los Angeles Times had already obtained the videos from the district court and posted them on YouTube and its website.
Gardena will continue its appeal "because we are concerned about the broader implications of this decision," Medrano said. "As our lawyers expressed in court, we have serious privacy concerns as it relates to the release of police videos in general," Medrano said.
"Imagine the implications of criminals seeing and hearing everything victims and witnesses tell police officers, or victims being subjected to having their interactions with police broadcast on the news or posted on the Internet. Our police officers are entrusted with sensitive and extremely personal information and we often come in contact with people under tragic situations and at their worst.
"We worry about the implications of this decision and its impact on victims and average citizens who are recorded by the police.".
The city filed the footage under seal in a federal civil rights lawsuit brought by Eutiquio Acevedo Mendez and relatives of Ricardo Diaz-Zeferino.
Diaz-Zeferino was gunned down on June, 2, 2013, after police responded to a call that a bicycle had been stolen from a nearby pharmacy and noticed two
men riding bikes.
The victim approached the officers and attempted to explain that his brother had reported the bicycle stolen and that the two men were not thieves but his friends, according to the complaint. The lawsuit alleges that police shot Diaz-Zeferino eight times and that he laid on the street, crying out in Spanish "Hasta aqui llegue' or "This is the end of me."
Gardena police maintained the shooting was justified because the victim was acting erratically and reached into his waistband despite a command to
raise his hands.
Mendez suffered a gunshot wound and survived. The city recently settled the lawsuit for $4.7 million. "The events that night in 2013 were tragic for all involved," Medrano said. "We continue to sympathize with the families and regret their loss. We have thoroughly reviewed our response and have initiated new training, including the tactical use of cover techniques to slow down fast-moving events.
We will also soon equip all our police officers with body-worn cameras. "Dash-cam videos and audio recorders are tools we have used for more than a decade to aid investigations and for monitoring the actions of our officers. In this case, our internal affairs division, the District Attorney's Office, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the families of Mr. Diaz-Zeferino and Mr. Acevedo and their lawyers had the ability to view the videos for their investigative purposes.
"The district attorney's 14-page review of the shooting, which is public record, described in detail what was recorded on the videos. We have also settled civil claim with the family. Thus, the criminal, civil and administrative cases are closed and our position is that everybody who needed to see the videos has had the opportunity to do so."
(Police video via Associated Press)