The officer who fatally shot a mentally-ill transient in the Midway District was allowed to view footage of the shooting before speaking with investigators, according to the attorney for the man’s family.
On Tuesday, San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis released surveillance footage from April 30, when San Diego Police Officer Neal Browder shot Fridoon Rawshan Nehad to death in the alley of an adult bookstore on Hancock Street.
During a news conference, Dumanis explained why her office ruled the shooting as justified. She said a pen Nehad was holding could have easily been mistaken for a knife based on how he was twirling it and its appearance.
While Nehad’s family has been vying for the video’s release, their attorney, Skip Miller, said Dumanis withheld three pieces of information. On Wednesday, Miller released a transcript of the entire interview held between Browder and the SDPD homicide team.
In it, Browder and his attorney reveal they were allowed to review the surveillance video for 20 minutes before being interviewed by investigators. Miller said he checked around and the move is highly unusual.
“Highly unusual and I think improper to do it the way they did it,” said Miller. “It’s almost like they try to rig the outcome to give him preparation.”
However, Ed Obayashi, a former SDPD officer and current legal adviser for the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, said it is not uncommon for officers to see video of the incident before giving their account.
"Some departments don't do it, other departments do it,” said Obayashi. “The trend is to allow the officer who was involved to view all of the relevant evidence for the purpose of refreshing, recollecting and strengthening the memory of that officer."
Miller also released what he called the complete, unedited footage that shows Nehad's death. The DA’s version has slight edits to emphasize certain aspects to the media.
WARNING: The video below is disturbing. If you cannot view it on a mobile device, click here.
The new video begins sooner than the one released by the DA, and it shows Nehad walking in the alley before coming to the area where he was shot. Miller said he wants the public to have the unenhanced version so they can judge what happened for themselves.
Obayashi told NBC 7 that seeing the raw footage does not change his opinion that the shooting was justified. He said a camera cannot account for factors like impressions and perceptions.
"Looking at the distance from where Officer Browder was and the victim and where the car was, there was no time for the officer to consider any other options,” said Obayashi.
Miller’s third new piece of information was a crime scene investigation. In it, he said police investigators determined Nehad was 25 feet away from Browder when shot – not 17 feet as the district attorney said.
“According to the police department’s own measurements, the officer was 25 feet away from Fridoon when he shot him down,” said Miller. “So I don’t understand why wouldn’t he have used less lethal force? Why wouldn’t he call for backup?”
Dumanis said she put together and released all material from the investigation that she thought was appropriate. Her office declined to file criminal charges against Browder, but a multimillion dollar lawsuit, filed by Nehad’s family, is still pending against him and the city.