Survey: Public Knows Little About Controversial Officer Shooting in Midway District

More than 66% of the 214 people questioned were not familiar with the shooting death of a mentally ill man

A vast majority of San Diego residents have not read or heard anything about the fatal shooting of a mentally-ill man by a San Diego police officer last April in the Midway District, according to a city-funded survey.

A pair of online surveys were commissioned by the City Attorney's Office as part of its defense in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the victim’s family. The surveys were conducted Dec. 23 and 27 and filed in federal court on Dec. 29.

According to the surveys, only one-third of jury-eligible respondents “have heard any news stories about a police shooting in San Diego where an individual named Fridoon Nehad was shot by a police officer named Neal Browder.”

More than 66 percent of the 214 people questioned were not familiar with the high-profile shooting.

San Diego Police Officer Neal Browder shot and killed Nehad in the early morning of April 30, 2015, in an alley near an adult bookstore in the Midway District. Nehad had a history of mental illness.

Browder has said Nehad posed a danger because he refused to stop walking toward Browder’s patrol car and was carrying what Browder thought was a knife. That knife turned out to be a pen.

The surveys also revealed that only 9.3 percent of those questioned had a negative impression of Nehad, compared to 34 percent who had a “positive” or “neutral” view of the victim and 56 percent who had never heard of Nehad.

Click here to read the survey.

The City Attorney’s office, which is defending taxpayers in a $20 million civil lawsuit filed by Nehad's family, said those findings dispute claims by attorneys for Nehad’s family that it cannot get a fair trial in San Diego. The family’s attorney has asked the judge to move the legal proceedings to another federal courthouse in another city.

The family’s attorneys blame San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis for poisoning the local jury pool by making “dishonest, inflammatory and gratuitous statements about this case in the press, including improper and inadmissible attacks” on the victim and “praise” for Browder, according to court documents.

The shooting was caught on video tape from an outside surveillance camera operated by owners of the book store. The District Attorney made the video public on Dec. 22, after a federal judge ordered its release.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, the City Council, SDPD Chief Shelley Zimmerman and Dumanis had for months refused to release the video and unsuccessfully opposed the legal efforts of a media coalition to make the video and the officer’s post-shooting statement public.

The survey also asked the jury-eligible respondents how likely they would be to favor Nehad’s family in the civil suit.

Just twelve percent said they would be “very” or “somewhat” likely to side with the victim’s family. Thirteen percent said they would be “very” or “somewhat” unlikely to favor the Nehad family. Twenty-six percent said they weren’t sure which side they would favor, while almost 50 percent said they had never heard of Nehad.

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