The 42-year-old Afghanistan man shot and killed by a San Diego police officer outside of an adult bookstore on April 30 had a long criminal history, suffered a history of mental illness and was in the process of being deported, court documents reveal.
Fridoon Zalbeg Rawshan died when the officer, responding to a report of a knife-wielding man, encountered Rawshan in an alley and fired at him. The officer, Neal Browder, did not have his body camera on at the time, which led the SDPD to change their recording policy.
It was a tragic ending for Fridoon Zalbeg Rawshan, who according to records, fled Afghanistan at the age of 16 to avoid military service and later feared persecution from the Taliban if he was sent back to his homeland.
Rawshan, also known as Rawshannehad, was homeless at the time of his death and fought mental illness for at least 11 years, according to court documents filed by his family. Even though his family said Rawshan had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, the courts found him to be mentally competent to stand trial on at least two criminal cases.
His story represents a vexing problem and the need for new policies to house the chronically mentally ill, according to homeless advocates."
When they’re out on the streets, there is no mechanism, there is no support for them and bad things happen,” said Bob McElroy with the ALPHA Project. “Unfortunately, it has to get to that issue where somebody’s wielding a knife, or a hammer or whatever it is.”
Since the summer of 2014, Rawshan’s behavior became increasingly more violent. That assessment came from his mother, who on April 28 - two days before he was shot and killed, filed documents for a restraining order against her son.
“Respondent is bipolar and can become aggressive and violent,” she wrote.
She said Rawshan had a history of abusive behavior. In July 2014, “he threatened to light the house on fire, to put the gas on and light a cigarette ‘so that you all can burn,’” said his mother in the document.
Later, the mother says Rawshan “pepper sprayed the entire house.”
She cited an incident on April 10, in which the mother and a daughter asked Rawshan to leave their Sabre Springs home. The mother says Rawshan began to yell, “This is my house. You can’t kick me out. I’m going to kill you.”
The next morning, the family discovered a car had been stolen. The car was found April 11 with a knife inside, according to his mother.
One psychologist said it’s a sad dilemma for any family dealing with chronic mental illness.
“The problem is in these kinds of situations, family will experience guilt because they were at a crossroads, what could they do? And now, their child is no longer with them,” said George Pratt, Ph.D., a psychologist with Scripps Hospital.
The trouble for Rawshan and his family began in 2005. The details are available in a July 2008 opinion by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Officials with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement would not comment on Rawshan’s case, citing privacy issues, but according to the appeals ruling, Rawshan was being deported for violating a protective order.
That protective order was filed by his own family. According to an affidavit filed by his sister, she and other family members obtained the protective order in response to the one of Rawshan’s psychotic episodes. In February 2005, Rawshan pleaded guilty to one count of battery.
Later, the family claimed they were unaware of Rawshan’s mental illness and had they realized it was the product of mental illness, they would not have requested the order.
Upon Rawshan’s death, an official with ICE would not comment on Rawshan's immigration status, only saying he was "under supervised release pending removal." Officials would not offer any other specific details on what kind of supervision he was under.
MORE ACCUSATIONS AND CRIMINAL CHARGES
There were other signs of violence before the 2005 battery incident with his family. Court records show a boyfriend of one of Rawshan’s sister filed a petition for a restraining order.
In October 2004, the boyfriend said he was physically attacked by Rawshan.
“He stated that he was going to drown me in his swimming pool,” wrote the man. “He said he was going to kill me and teach me a lesson. The defendant has made it very clear to me that he will kill me next time he sees me. I fear for my personal safety and well being.”
Soon after the the Ninth Circuit Court’s ruling, court documents show Fridoon Rawshawn was in trouble with the law on several occasions.
Court records show in October 2008, he was charged with trespassing. That same month he was charged with vandalism. In November 2008, he was charged on two counts of first degree burglary.
Rawshawn would eventually be sentenced to one year and four months in jail.
Several years later, he ran into trouble with the law again. According to court records, he was charged with one count of petty theft in September 2014. That charge led to an informal request for discovery per California’s “Three Strikes law.”
According to family statements on court documents, it’s clear the family believed Rawshawn suffered from mental illness. And apparently there were questions about his mental competency from his court appointed public defenders, who requested, perhaps as a matter of procedure, at least two mental competency hearings.
In documents connected to one of those hearings, Rawhsan’s father, once again, documented a history of mental illness.
“He loses his clothes, leaving them in bushes. He’s dirty and has lost weight too,” wrote his father. “We can’t take care of him anymore. We need help getting him in to see a doctor and take his medications. He is a very nice man when he takes his medications. But when he stops, he has problems.”
Yet twice, once in documents dated February 9, 2005, and again in December 22, 2008, the courts issued orders finding the defendant, Fridon Zalbeg Rawshan, mentally competent to stand trial.
According to McElroy, with the Alpha Project, the case points to an inability to process the chronically mentaly ill.
“It’s a tremendous problem and whether you care about these folks or not, they’re costing taxpayers in this city hundreds of millions of dollars and nationwide, billions of dollars by just having nothing for folks who are trapped in mental illness," said McElroy.
“We have problems with access and then policing these kinds of situations,” said Pratt. “Not knowing what the current mental state of the person is, it puts them in a very difficult position”.
What we know about Fridoon Rawshan is taken from court documents. His family has repeatedly denied requests to talk about him, asking for privacy.
Meanwhile, San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman has said there will be a “comprehensive and thorough” investigation in the officer-involved shooting that ended in Rawshan's death.
Civil rights activists, including the ACLU, have raised questions about police accountability when it came to light that the officer, Browder, did not have his body camera turned on during the fatal encounter.
After the breach in policy, Zimmerman announced a change in body camera procedure, instructing officers to turn on their body cameras when they get a call to the scene, not when they contact a suspect.
The SDPD says investigators did not find a knife on Rawshan's body, though they found a knife sheath and a "shiny object." Detectives have since obtained surveillance video of Rawshan's shooting, but they have not made it public.
The department would not comment any further on the case, only saying their investigation will eventually be turned over to the District Attorney’s office.