Update: San Diego City Council candidate calls for release of Midway shooting video

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – 12/17/2015 – San Diego City Council candidate Sarah Saez Friday called for release of a private security video the Mayor and Police Chief have attempted to conceal, but that a federal judge Wednesday ordered to be released. 

In the event that the Federal Judge’s ruling is appealed, Ms. Saez intends to file an amicus brief in support of the release of the footage.

“I have great respect for the difficult job our police officers perform, made all the more difficult by city leaders discontinuing community oriented policing, which enabled officers to get to know neighborhood problems and address them proactively,” Saez said. 

“But in this case, the most important issue is the city’s unwillingness to be transparent and give the public the truth. By attempting to withhold this footage, the city is undermining public trust not just in our police force, but in city government as a whole,” she said.

“The implicit message in the city’s position is that the public can’t be trusted with the facts,” she said. “I think San Diegans are fully capable of judging this evidence for themselves. Whatever is on that video, it should be a catalyst for an honest discussion about public safety in our community,” she said.

12/16/2015 – A federal judge ruled Wednesday that video footage of a fatal shooting of a man by a San Diego police officer in the Midway District can be released by the victim’s family, but delayed action on the decision for a week to allow for appeals.

In his eight-page ruling, U.S. District Judge William Q. Hayes said there was no longer good cause for a protective order, which kept the video from being released to the public.

The judge’s ruling came in a lawsuit filed by the family of 42-year-old Fridoon Nehad, who was shot by Officer Neal Browder last April 30. Browder was responding to a call about a man threatening people with a knife.

Nehad was shot as he advanced on the officer, twirling a shiny object that turned out to be a metallic pen, authorities said.

The video footage in question came from a security camera from a nearby business and was confiscated by police as part of the investigation.

Last month, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis ruled the shooting was legal, but refused to release the video.

Attorneys for the Nehad family got the video when they sued, but had to agree not to release it. The family said the video shows that Nehad was not a threat to Browder and wants it made public.

A coalition of media organizations went to court to ask the judge to lift the protective order, which was opposed by the city of San Diego and lawyers for the officer.

11/16/2015 – A San Diego police officer was legally justified in fatally shooting a mentally ill homeless man who advanced toward him with what he thought was a knife, San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis announced Tuesday.

Officer Neal Browder shot and killed 42-year-old Fridoon Rawshan Nehad on April 30. The 27-year-old SDPD veteran was responding to a radio call about a man threatening people with a knife in the Midway District, Dumanis said.

She said Nehad — who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and had a violent past with his family — kept advancing on the officer in an alley and was twirling and manipulating a shiny object that looked like a knife, but turned out to be a metallic pen.

Dumanis cited the case to call for improved outreach and treatment for the county’s more than 8,000 homeless, many of whom are mentally ill.

"Nationwide, more than 11 million individuals cycle in and out of county-operated jails every year and up to 64 percent of them suffer from mental illness,” Dumanis said.

"People shouldn’t have to wait until they land in jail or find themselves in a life-threatening situation to receive the mental health treatment and care they deserve.”

A letter sent to San Diego police Chief Shelley Zimmerman on the results of the investigation into the shooting said two witnesses heard the officer demand that Nehad drop the knife. Nehad was 17 feet from the officer when he fired.

Dumanis said Browder fired 32 seconds after arriving on scene.

When asked what he believed when the situation was unfolding, Browder said he thought Nehad was going to stab him.

Toxicology tests showed Nehad had cannabinoids and THC in his system at the time of the shooting.

While the officer’s body-worn camera was not turned on, Dumanis’ letter to Zimmerman notes that video surveillance of the incident exists. "The video captured this incident from one angle, high up on a pole, without audio,” Dumanis said.

"It did not capture what Officer Browder could see, what he sensed, what he said, or what he reasonably believed.

Should the video ever be released in the future, I hope the public will view it in the context of all the evidence.”

Dumanis said her office’s four-month review showed there were many opportunities and attempts made to get Nehad into treatment and get him the long-term help he needed.

11/15/2015 – District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis announced Monday that the officer involved in a fatal Midway shooting faces no criminal liability for his actions.

At a press conference Monday afternoon, Dumanis called for the improved treatment for the mentally-ill homeless.

Dumanis today found that based on a thorough review of the evidence and the law, a San Diego Police Officer who fatally shot Fridoon Rawshan Nehad, 42, on April 30 of this year is not criminally liable for his actions.  

In making the determination, Dumanis noted that Nehad was homeless, suffered from schizophrenia and had a physically-violent past. Dumanis used the facts of the incident to call for improved outreach and treatment for the county’s more than 8,000 homeless, many of whom suffer from mental illness.
 
"Nationwide, more than 11 million individuals cycle in and out of county-operated jails every year and up to 64 percent of them suffer from mental illness," said DA Dumanis.  "People shouldn’t have to wait until they land in jail or find themselves in a life-threatening situation to receive the mental health treatment and care they deserve."
 
SDPD Officer Neal Browder was responding to a 911 call of a man threatening people with a knife when he encountered Nehad in an alley walking toward him with a shiny object in his hand. Officer Browder’s perception that the suspect was armed with a knife was shared by two civilians in the immediate vicinity. Nehad held and manipulated the object in his hand like a knife. The item was a metallic pen.
 
Dumanis said that Nehad was approximately 17 feet from the officer and was continuing to advance. Officer Browder fired his weapon 32 seconds after driving into the alley, she said. 
 
A letter sent to San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman outlining the DA’s review says there were three witnesses to the events leading up to the shooting.

Two witnesses heard Officer Browder demand that the suspect drop the knife. Another witness said he believed he heard Officer Browder tell Nehad to stop. Two independent witnesses say they believed Nehad was holding a knife.
 
When asked during an interview what he believed at the time the incident was occurring Officer Browder said he believed Mr. Nehad was going to stab him. 

Based on the totality of the evidence, the DA found Officer Browder to be in fear for his life, his decision to shoot was reasonable, and he therefore bears no criminal liability for his actions.
 
The DA’s must also consider Nehad’s serious history of violence as part of the legal analysis. If criminal charges were filed, a jury would be instructed that they could consider Nehad’s past history in evaluating the officer’s beliefs.

According to a statement released Monday afternoon, Nehad was diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. He was physically violent towards his mother and sisters. 
 
He made several threats to kill them and on numerous occasions they reported they were afraid he would use a knife to stab or kill them. His repeated threats and aggression toward his immediate family led to restraining orders and brief hospital commitments. The most recent request for a restraining order came just 17 days before the shooting.  It was filed by Mr. Nehad’s mother, who stated she was afraid for her safety and security," according to the statement.
 
Toxicology tests how Mr. Nehad had cannabinoids and THC in his system at the time of the shooting.
 
While the officer’s body-worn camera was not turned on, the DA’s letter to SDPD notes that video surveillance of the incident exists.
 
"The video captured this incident from one angle, high up on a pole, without audio," Dumanis said.  "It did not capture what Officer Browder could see, what he sensed, what he said, or what he reasonably believed. Should the video ever be released in the future, I hope the public will view it in the context of all the evidence, as we did."
 
5/29/2015 – The family of a man shot and killed in the Midway district last month filed a claim against the San Diego Police Department.

The claim accuses Officer Neal Browder of using, "excessive and unreasonable force" and intentionally not turning on his body camera and the family is asking for $20 million.

According to Officer Browder, he was forced to open fire on Fridoon Rawshannehad Negad, who was advancing on Browder and ignoring his commands.

According to officials, Browder confronted Rawshannehad while responding to a report of a knife-wielding man threatening people inside and outside Hi-Lite Theater and Book Store on April 30th around midnight.

Rawshannehad allegedly advanced towards Browder with what appeared to be a knife and ignored Browder’s commands to stand down.

The 27-year department veteran was forced to open fire. Rawshannehad was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.

According to Lt. Hastings, it turned out that Rawshannedhad had not been armed with a knife, but exactly what he was holding is still unclear.

Further investigating determined that Browder had not activated his so-called "body camera" during the call.

5/5/2015 – The reason behind why veteran police officer Neal Browder did not activate his uniform-worn camera prior to his confrontation with 42-year-old Fridoon Zalbeg Rawshannehad on Thursday April 30, 2015 remains unclear.

Browder shot Rawshannehad shortly after midnight on Thursday behind the Midway District’s Hi-Lite Theater and Book Store on Hancock Street. 

San Diego Chief of Police Shelley Zimmerman said in a prepared statement that, "In any officer-involved shooting, we conduct a very methodical, comprehensive and thorough investigation, and that question will be answered during the investigation."

The San Diego Police Department has been outfitting  many sworn personnel with the "body cameras" over the last year, and officers have been instructed to turn on the cameras prior to all interactions, minus particular privacy, abuse, medical and emergency situations.

Detectives investigating the case told reporters that it was not immediately clear why Browder did not activate his camera.

4/30/15 – An officer-involved shooting happened outside a well-known adult-store and nude dancing complex in the Midway-Loma portal area.Just after midnight, a business called ‘Les Girls’, a 27-year-old veteran of the San Diego Police Department shot a man who police say had threatened a ‘Les Girls’ employee with a knife.

Moments before, the employee, a clerk in the highlight bookstores of the building, had called 911 to say he’s been threatened. Another employee said 42-year-old Fridoon Zalbeg Rawshannehad had a brandished the knife outside then came into the store.

The officer was there within a couple of minutes and confronted Rawshannehad in an alley between the store and several other businesses.

Again, investigators said Rawshannehad continued toward the officer despite the officer’s commands.

Witnesses said they heard only a single gunshot. Rawshannehad was pronounced dead at UCSD Medical Center.

An employee of one of the neighboring businesses said he had seen surveillance video of the shooting.

Long after investigators had left the scene, at least one homicide detective returned and was seen entering the building where the worker was employed.

Nearby workers also said the area has quite a transient problem and described Rawshannehad with obvious mental health issues.

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