This post has been updated.

Federal officials are looking into April’s disputed police shooting in San Diego’s Midway neighborhood, a spokesman for Mayor Kevin Faulconer said Tuesday.

Deputy City Attorney Keith Phillips referenced a possible federal inquiry during a court hearing Tuesday. Voice of San Diego and other local media outlets are asking a judge to allow the family of the shooting victim to release surveillance footage of the incident. Faulconer, the City Council and Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman all oppose the video’s release publication. (Councilman David Alvarez has said he wants the video released.)

Phillips mentioned a federal review as a reason to keep the video secret. In the hearing, U.S. District Court Judge William Hayes said he’d rule on whether to release the video by the end of the week.

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“We support the appropriate federal review, local law enforcement and legal processes to run their course before any video or other material evidence should be released,” Faulconer spokesman Charles Chamberlayne said. “Part of this process involves the judge’s decision, which the city will follow.”

Chamberlayne said Zimmerman told him the federal review was routine and deferred further comment to the Police Department. A local DOJ spokeswoman said the agency does not confirm or deny the existence of an investigation.

In April, Officer Neal Browder shot and killed 42-year-old Fridoon Rawshan Nehad outside an adult bookstore. Browder was responding to a 911 call about a knife-wielding man, but Nehad, a mentally ill Afghan refugee, turned out to be unarmed.

Last month, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis declined to prosecute Browder and said it was reasonable to believe the officer felt threatened.

But others who have seen the video, including an employee of the business that recorded the incident and Nehad’s family members, have said the shooting was unprovoked.

“I think that no person in the world, in the entire universe, can see that video and come to the conclusion that my brother was attacking a police officer,” said Benazeer Roshan, Nehad’s sister.

Update: After this post initially published, SDPD spokesman Scott Wahl said the FBI is the agency conducting the review. Mayoral spokesman Charles Chamberlayne said it was the U.S. Department of Justice. We’ve updated the headline and some of the language to reflect the discrepancy. 

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    Written by Liam Dillon

    Liam Dillon is senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He leads VOSD’s investigations and writes about how regular people interact with local government. What should he write about next? Please contact him directly at or 619.550.5663.

    rhylton subscriber

    Really; what is amazing about all this is how well it has been controlled and how the reporting of it, and related matters of policing, in general, seems to have been controlled.  Otherwise, it is serendipitous coincidence to have this confluence of events. 

    Had the Feds acted earlier (and they knew of the rot)  three or more lives could have been saved. Instead, the Feds focused on sex. All that appears missing from this report are the magical words Fair, Impartial, Complete, and Unbiased. Now, by their alleged intervention they, the Feds, have given these people another argument to suppress the video.

    Despite protestations to the contrary, the SDPD has had policies in support of, and displayed a pattern and practice of disparate law-enforcement that, to a remarkable extent, depends on geographical location, race and ethnicity. This difference (documented in writing) results in disparate shoot and don't shoot decisions, as are at the root of this abominable incident.

    Finally, the article contains an unnecessary correction, update or qualification.The FBI is the USDOJ. According to the FBI: In 1908 Attorney General Charles Joseph Bonaparte issued an Order creating an investigative agency within the Department of Justice. The Order was confirmed in 1909 by Attorney General George W. Wickersham, who ordered the establishment of the Bureau of Investigation. The present name, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), was designated by Congress in 1935.