Was It Murder? Video of Police Shooting an Unarmed Latino Man Sparks Debate

Gardena Police Shooting

A recently-released video of a police shooting in California has renewed debate about what constitutes excessive force by police. The video shows police stopping three men at gunpoint. The men hold their hands up but one man drops his hands for a moment before pulling a hat off his head. When the man reaches for his hat, police officers open fire on the man, killing him and wounding another man.

Watch for yourself (WARNING: Graphic Video):

Credit: Los Angeles Times / YouTube

So what’s the deal? 

In 2013, Ricardo Diaz Zeferino was shot and killed by police in Gardena, California. Gardena Police officers believed Diaz Zeferino and his two friends were possible suspects in the robbery of a bicycle from a nearby CVS pharmacy. During the police stop, 35-year-old Diaz Zeferino was shot by officers who said he did not comply with their commands. He was unarmed. His friend, Eutiquio Mendez, was also wounded in the shooting.

End of story? No. It turns out Diaz Zeferino and his two friends actually reported the stolen bicycle. They were riding around the neighborhood in their bicycles to look for the stolen bike when they were stopped.

Diaz Zeferino’s family sued the city of Gardena, claiming police had violated Diaz Zeferino’s civil rights. The Gardena Police maintained that the shooting was lawful. They pointed out that Diaz Zeferino appeared to reach for his waistband and did not comply with commands. An autopsy of Diaz Zeferino also revealed he had alcohol and methamphetamine in his system. Diaz Zeferino’s family said he was just trying to tell police he was innocent. 

The city of Gardena settled with the family for $4.7 million and the officers were cleared of wrongdoing. A federal judge also ordered dash cam video of the incident to be released.

Credit: Associated Press / YouTube

Diaz Zeferino’s brother Augustin Reynoso, told the L.A. Times the settlement is not enough: “Nothing is sufficient, not even the money. A life is more important than the money.”

Do you believe police used excessive force? Let us know in the comments below.