Finally, we know what really happened.
In July of 2013, two men were shot by Gardena police responding to the theft of a bicycle.
Except they didn’t kill a dangerous bike thief and wound his partner in crime.
The man they mistakenly killed was the brother of the man whose bike was stolen. He was just trying to tell the officers that the men they had stopped weren’t vicious thieves, but were actually helping to look for the missing bike.
Unfortunately, the three officers didn’t seem to understand Ricardo Diaz Zeferino’s Spanish, even though customers at a nearby restaurant could clearly make out what he was saying. And he didn’t seem to understand the cops commands to stop.
Now the DA’s office has ruled that they acted within the law in shooting the unarmed man eight times — including twice in the back.
The same with what they say was the unintentional shooting of his similarly innocent friend, who was also shot in the back.
The DA’s decision was based on dash cam video, which apparently captured the whole thing. It reportedly showed Diaz Zeferino reaching into his pockets to toss unidentified items to the ground, then taking off his baseball cap, despite orders to stop. The officers opened fire when he started to raise his hands again.
The cops couldn’t see his right hand, according to the Deputy DA who reviewed the video, and believed he was going to reach for a weapon.
A weapon that didn’t exist.
Not that that inconvenient fact seems to matter to anyone.
Not surprisingly, the attorneys for the victims reached a different conclusion, arguing that the video showed the police gave confusing orders, and that Diaz Zeferino’s right hand was empty and in front of his body when they opened fire. And that the other victim, Acevedo Mendez, was shot despite keeping his hands over his head the whole time.
Unfortunately, we’ll never know which version is true, since the Gardena Police Department has refused to make the video public.
Although they did allow the cops to view the video before making their statements so they could get their stories straight.
On the other hand, whatever the video showed, it was enough to convince the city of Gardena to settle a civil rights lawsuit over the shooting for $4.7 million. Not that any amount of money will do Diaz Zeferino a lot of good.
According to the DA’s report, the toxicology report showed he had meth and alcohol in his system. Which is no more relevant to the case than whether he was wearing a bike helmet.
The three officers who opened fire are still on active patrol duty nearly two years after the shooting; the department’s internal review over the shooting was on hold until the civil case was resolved, which happened earlier this week.
The outcome of that review is something else we’ll never know about; any disciplinary action will be confidential under California law.
This is the second time this year the DA has refused to prosecute cops who killed someone in a bike-related case. And the second time that disciplinary action, if any, will be a deep, dark secret known only to the officers involved.
So if your bike is ever stolen in Gardena, maybe you’re better off just letting it go. Those cops could still be out there, ready to shoot at the drop of a hat.
And whatever happens, don’t count on the LA County DA’s office to do a damn thing about it.