LOS ANGELES (AP) — The refusal of a California city to release videos showing the fatal shooting of an unarmed man by police is an attempt to avoid public scrutiny and criticism, three media outlets argued Monday in a federal court motion seeking release of the footage.
The videos, which are under a federal court seal, show 34-year-old Ricardo Diaz Zeferino being shot by Gardena police officers in 2013.
His family and another man who was wounded filed a federal civil rights lawsuit that the city settled for a total of $4.7 million earlier this year.
The Associated Press, Los Angeles Times and Bloomberg claim Gardena officials want the videos sealed to avoid criticism.
However, there's profound public interest in the release against the backdrop of fatal police shootings around the country, the media outlets contend.
"Access to the videos is critical for the public to have a full and accurate account of the proceedings that occurred before this court, and the circumstances that led to the city defendants' payment of millions of dollars of taxpayer money to settle allegations of alleged police misconduct," the news organizations argued in their motion.
Videos of such interactions often prompt institutional change, it said.
The city in Southern California argued in February for sealing the videos, citing privacy concerns and saying release could cause unfounded speculation.
"This is a particularly legitimate concern given the anti-police sentiment which has recently become so prevalent," according to the city's arguments.
A judge granted the request before the case was settled.
Justine Grubb, an attorney for the city, did not return a call for comment on Monday.
Attorneys representing Zeferino call his death a cold-blooded shooting, saying three officers shot him on June 2, 2013, as he was following their orders to raise his hands.
An autopsy showed that Zeferino was shot eight times, including twice in the back.
Police have said Zeferino and three companions were acting suspiciously, refused to comply with their orders, and that Zeferino made a movement "consistent with reaching for a weapon."
Zeferino and a man who survived were shot after police responded to a call by Zeferino's brother that his bike had been stolen. The shooting happened on a busy street in front of a restaurant.
Sonia Mercado, who represented Zeferino's parents in their lawsuit against the city, called Ricardo Zeferino a hard-working "sweetheart" who was supporting his family as a cook at a Korean restaurant.
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