A little over two years ago, 35-year-old Ricardo Diaz Zeferino was on a street in Gardena, California—unarmed and uninvolved in any illicit activity—when he was shot and killed by local police. Amid national uproar and a $4.7 million settlement over the shooting, the Gardena Police Department fought to keep the video footage of the event from being released. On Tuesday a federal judge mandated that the recording be released, declaring that the public had an interest in seeing it.
The video footage, which was shot from cameras mounted on police cars and obtained by the Los Angeles Times, reveals police officers leveling weapons at three men and yelling at them to keep their hands in the air. According to reports from 2013, the officers at the scene believed the men to be responsible for a bicycle theft that had been called in to the department that day. Per the Times:
While two of the men remain motionless, Ricardo Diaz Zeferino appears confused by the officers’ instructions. He drops and raises his arms repeatedly, showing the officers his hands and stepping backward and then forward a few paces. A laser dot from an officers’ pistol can be seen on his shirt. After Diaz Zeferino removes a baseball cap from his head, officers standing to the side of the men unleash a volley of gunfire.
The videos show Diaz Zeferino, 35, collapsing to the ground, along with one of his friends, who was wounded.
In a statement after the release of the graphic video, Gardena Police Chief Ed Medrano called the shooting “tragic for all involved” and added that his department has thoroughly reviewed the 2013 case and initiated new training techniques. Diaz Zeferino’s family members and legal representation have claimed that the city of Gardena has failed to conduct proper internal reviews of police shootings. According to remarks from Medrano made earlier this year, the police officers who opened fire were still on patrol. At the time, he said the department's internal investigation to determine whether discipline was needed was put on hold due to civil legislation.
As Vox notes, the implications of the Diaz Zeferino case extend far beyond the operations of one city’s police department. On a national level, law enforcement agencies, civilians, and policymakers have clashed about the use of undue police force and how to monitor these actions with video footage, in the form of body and dashboard cameras. While advocates of police cameras insist they will provide a new degree of transparency and accountability, those on the other side argue that police cameras place an undue strain on officers whose fears about being constantly videotaped may negatively interfere with their police work. Tuesday’s release of the gruesome video will only fan the flames of this debate.