The questions began almost immediately after the shooting.

Fridoon Rawshan Nehad, who was shot and killed by San Diego police officer Neal Browder in an alley in the Midway neighborhood in late April, turned out to be unarmed, despite initial reports that said he had a knife. And Browder didn’t turn on the body camera he was wearing before the shooting.

But a security camera from a nearby business did record the entire incident. According to a sworn court statement from an employee of the business who watched the video at least 20 times. Nehad had done nothing to provoke Browder to shoot and kill him. The employee called the video “shocking.”

The city, however, says Nehad threatened Browder and was closing in on him when the officer drew his gun and fired. Browder has been returned to active duty while prosecutors weigh any charges against him.

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The city has refused to release the security camera video – even though Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman has said she’d consider making video recordings of disputed police shootings public. City officials only turned the security camera footage over to Nehad’s family members after they filed a federal lawsuit – and even then it was disclosed along with a court order that the video couldn’t be made public.

We believe the public should be able to see what happened in this case.

Wednesday afternoon, Voice of San Diego and four other local media outlets filed a motion in federal court to unseal the video of the Nehad shooting along with Browder’s initial statement to investigators. From the motion:

The Media wishes to review the Video and Browder’s Statement in order to publicly report on the killing and how it occurred, and is informed and believes that [Nehad’s family] are willing to provide copies and discuss them with the Media. This issue is of immense public concern in America, including San Diego, as other news stories involving the killing of unarmed individuals, some of whom have mental illness, have recently shown, including in Ferguson, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Maryland, and elsewhere.

We’ll keep you updated on the case.

    This article relates to: Must Reads, Police, Public Safety

    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.

    Victor Torres
    Victor Torres subscribermember

    This video tape is the private property of a business owner near the scene of the shooting. The SDPD and DA are both fighting the release of the video BY ITS OWNER. The PD seized it as evidence; the DA has a copy - as evidence. The owner has not given up his rights to possess his own property and do what he pleases with it. What right is the DA and SDPD enforcing? They have cleared the officer in the shooting. There is no criminal prosecution (at least for now); the victim is dead. What legitimate reason does Bonnie Dumanis have to continue to fight the release by the owner? The only conclusion that the public can jump to, without more information from their electeds, is that it was a bad shoot. If it was a good shoot Dumanis would be more than happy to allow the owner to release it.

    obboy13 subscriber

    Time to pump the brakes on this one Liam.  Whatever videos the police have will come out in court, and will then be available to the media.  We are a nation of laws, and I for one am more than willing to allow the criminal justice process time to work.  By demanding immediate access to the tapes, you are aligning VOSD with those who feel they are somehow above the courts and want to make a rushed judgement without having a full investigation; those who have an axe to grind against law enforcement, or those millennials whose sense of self-entitlement is overreaching.

    At a time when Mario Korean is doing superb investigation and uncovering problems in the upper levels of SDUSD, others at VOSD are wasting time and money (yes, I'm on your donor list) trying to gain early release of evidence which will almost assuredly come out anyway.  If you have the resources to throw at what is essentially a timing issue, already being investigated by at least two law enforcement agencies, then either the constant requests for support emanating from VOSD are not as exigent as VOSD would have us believe; or it's time for staff there to take a fresh look at priorities.    

    sjagitator subscriber

    Thank you!!! VOSD and KPBS for suing for the right to know!  I almost thought we were at a point where whatever the cops say is it!  There is a lot of activism right now around the SDPD which mirrors the rest of the nation in police violence.  Check out a local effort to reform the CRB - citizens review board.  Right now this board is a rubber stamp of Internal Affairs.  No checks and balances.  We can do lots better in San Diego! Check out the Facebook page and sign the petition for more info.  And please do share with your friends! 

    Bit-watcher subscriber

    What is curious is that not an iota of concern is exhibited that a mentally-ill person is out on the streets.  Have we (and especially the media) become so inured to this, so normalized to this, that it's not even seen as troubling?  

    Going after the video is peanuts -- you should be going after the government for keeping the mental asylums closed and the patients on the streets, where bus-drivers, convenience-store clerks, fast-food workers, safety and law-enforcement workers, and ER staff bear the brunt of dealing with these people who simply can't deal with not only everyday life, but their illnesses.   We're spending the money anyway, and clogging the system (ER, safety and law-enforcement workers) with assisting these unfortunate individuals.  

    Getting self-righteous about the video?  Get a grip Liam and VOSD -- address the bigger social problem.

    Bit-watcher subscriber

    What's the rush?  This evidence will come out in the case, or if it's not introduced into evidence, it'll be visible anyway.  Why try this in the court of public opinion?  Mob justice starts this way, and irresponsible (but powerful) newspapers/journalism in the past have fanned those flames in the past. I detect the odor of self-righteousness in this request, this demand. 

    Geoff Page
    Geoff Page subscribermember

    Kudos to VOSD.  If that video shows what it is purported to show, the police chief should be removed from her position for not disclosing it.

    Ed Price
    Ed Price

    What is the legal rationale for withholding evidence which has been obtained from a 3rd party who has already inspected the evidence before turning it over to police? In the case of a security camera, viewing a street scene, isn't this simply a record of what is already public domain (that is, a view on a public street)? Does the SDPD require a court order because of their own intransigence or do they use that to provide themselves with some kind of legal cover ("the court made us release it.")

    Kathy S
    Kathy S subscriber

    In 1994, the US Congress passed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which authorized the attorney general to collect and publish nationwide data on police use of force. In 2000, Congress passed the Death in Custody Reporting Act, which required states to report any individual who dies in police custody, but lacked proper enforcement and expired in 2006. In December 2014, a new version of the latter act passed again, requiring the attorney general to eliminate federal funding for police departments that fail to comply.

          “This a national crisis,” Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, told the Post. “We have to get American police to rethink how they handle encounters with the mentally ill. Training has to change.”

    Kathy S
    Kathy S subscriber

    21-foot rule.....

    "However, police chiefs at the PERF

    conference said that unfortunately, the “21-

    foot rule” has been taught informally in police

                                                                                                                                                                                                       training academies and in some cases, it has

    morphed into an incorrect way of thinking.

    Instead of seeing the 21-foot rule as a

    general warning to think defensively and

    protect themselves when confronted by a

    person with a knife, some officers came to

    see the rule as a legal justification to shoot a

    person with a knife who is less than 21 feet

    away, a number of chiefs said.

    So instead of protecting officers’ safety,

    the rule has been cited to justify the use of

    deadly force in incidents when other tactics

    might have allowed a resolution of the

    situation without deadly force."

    Omar Passons
    Omar Passons subscribermember

    I'd be taking this position regardless of the economic, racial, health status, or any other characteristic of the person against whom force was used in this case.  I took a Saturday and went down to go through the Citizens Police Academy a couple months ago. And then yesterday I asked a friend about this case who has been doing this work for three decades.  I want bad decisions punished.  I want racism and sexism and prejudices stamped out of all police agencies just like I want it stamped out of society.

    And I want the thoughtfulness that will not come if this is just posted up on Youtube or the nightly news.  I want people to realize that perception-reaction time is a thing.  That from 15-20 feet away a person who is standing still can get to you before you've successfully drawn your weapon and fired. Police say this and society assumes they are just blowing smoke.  Heck, watch some of the footage around the country and it's hard to blame them.  But I sat through this class - skeptical of what I'd learn from the get go.  And then I realized even with a fake gun in my hand and a situation in which I knew I would make it home to my loved ones I didn't see the pretend perpetrator's weapon.  

    I applaud Voice of San Diego for taking this aggressive step, because a free society demands that they be able to do it.  And I look forward to the day that the police department can release footage to those who need it (i.e. independent review bodies, family, lawyers, police officials) in a way that is not just about aiding investigation.  But even the way this shooting has been portrayed thus far biases what comes next.  I haven't seen anyone report even that there is a possibility that a suspect can reach - and harm - an armed officer from within 15 to 20 feet. And that this creates a legitimate reason for something that appears to a lay person to be "unprovoked" to be much more serious than that.  Complete reporting would demand that you evaluate the science of perception/reaction time.  If you science is inconclusive, fine, report that.  But we need to do more than just push for the most sensational thing. Or the thing that we think will drive the change we want.  The real question in terms of broad public release with no context is whether the change we want - presumably as close to no dead citizens as possible - will be served by that release.  Someone not affiliated with the police department who nevertheless has appropriate training in real-world life and death situations ought to have viewed this.  But whether that means that *everyone* should view it is a very different thing.

    I don't have answers and I understand skepticism of police - especially in light of the police who have tarnished the uniform.  But isn't there a more serious responsibility before broad disclosure of something like this?

    Omar Passons
    Omar Passons subscribermember

    @Kathy S @Omar Passons Thanks Kathy. Very informative.  I was shocked to find my own tunnel vision on my "suspect's" hands (that were raised), so much so that I didn't realize he had a fake gun for 30 seconds. Then they did actual demonstrations of perception-reaction time with attendees, so it was clear for example how a person could be shot in the back even after firing at a police officer while facing him or her.  I don't know what happened in the current situation, but I count on my news sources to give me the whole picture. And I have a very close friend who has stood between bad people with weapons and innocent people without them on more than one occasion.  So I just want more information like what you shared so I can have a more informed opinion.  And so that we don't prematurely inflame a situation that can hurt the very people we think are protected by the coverage.