By Marty Graham
SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - The family of an Afghan immigrant who was shot and killed by a San Diego policeman who had not activated his body camera, prompting the department to revise its policy, has filed a $20 million claim against the city.
The claim, the precursor to a federal lawsuit, alleges that San Diego Police Officer Neal Browder used excessive force and violated Fridoon Rawshannehad's civil rights when he shot him to death on April 30.
Browder, a 27-year veteran of the San Diego Police Department, shot Rawshannehad, 42, in an alley behind an adult bookstore after responding to 911 calls reporting that a man with a knife was threatening people there.
The incident comes amid a series of fatal police confrontations across the country that have put law-enforcement agencies under scrutiny over the use of lethal force, especially against minorities, the poor and the mentally ill.
According to police, Browder shot Rawshannehad after he advanced on the officer in the alley and refused to obey commands.
Police have not confirmed reports that no weapon was found on Rawshannehad after the shooting and have declined to release a surveillance camera that captured the incident.
"There was no reason to shoot this unarmed man," said attorney Skip Miller, who is representing Fridoon's family in the litigation. "The police are covering it up – they did not make their own record and they won't release the video."
According to the claim, Rawshannehad suffered from schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder from his forced military service in the Afghan civil war. Days before the shooting, he had threatened his mother and sister, who then sought a restraining order, according to court records.
The claim alleges that Rawshannehad did not challenge Browder at all and that the officer's life was never in danger.
A San Diego Police Department spokesman declined to comment on the claim.
Following the shooting San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman changed the department's policy, requiring that officers activate their body cameras as soon as they arrive on the scene of a critical call.
(Reporting by Marty Graham in San Diego; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Sandra Maler)