What We Learned This Week - Voice of San Diego

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What We Learned This Week

Fridoon Rawshan Nehad was shot and killed by a police officer in a Midway alleyway in April 2015. / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

Something weird happened in the Jeffrey Epstein case this week.

A prosecutor in the case, in announcing charges against Epstein, said, “We were assisted by some excellent investigative journalism.”

He was referring to the incredible work of Julie Brown at the Miami Herald, whose coverage of the Epstein case has been fierce and exhaustive.

But it’s obviously, uh, rare for police to praise investigative journalists, though that work can often help them do their jobs.

In fact, it won’t shock you to hear, the reaction is usually the opposite, particularly when the lens is focused on law enforcement itself.

I was reminded of one particularly bizarre reaction from a prosecutor to a journalist’s question this week when the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals brought back to life a case against San Diego Police officer Neal Browder, who shot and killed an unarmed man in the Midway district in 2015. We’ve followed the case closely since we led a coalition of media outlets that successfully intervened in the case to unseal video surveillance of the shooting.

When then-District Attorney finally unveiled that video footage, after being ordered by a court to do so, VOSD’s Scott Lewis asked her if other people who are unarmed and encountered police in similar circumstances should also fear for their lives, she balked instead of answering.

“Is that a real question, Scott?” she asked.

The 9th Circuit’s take on the case makes clear that question was a reasonable one:

“At a broad level, a triable issue remains regarding the reasonableness of Browder’s use of deadly force.  More specifically, there are genuine disputes about: (1) Browder’s credibility; (2) whether Nehad posed a significant, if any, danger to anyone; (3) whether the severity of Nehad’s alleged crime warranted the use of deadly force; (4) whether Browder gave or Nehad resisted any commands; (5) the significance of Browder’s failure to identify himself as a police officer or warn Nehad of the impending use of force; and (6) the availability of less intrusive means of subduing Nehad.”

Yet Dumanis, at that press conference, did everything in her power to place the blame on Nehad for his own death – including, astonishingly – playing YouTube videos of random people brandishing butterfly knives to drive home how dangerous those weapons are when Nehad was unarmed and not carrying a butterfly knife or any other weapon.

The 9th Circuit said that viewed in the light most favorable to Nehad’s family – the lens the district court was supposed to use in reviewing the case – Browder’s actions were “objectively unreasonable.”

The case will now move back to federal court, possibly for a trial, where a jury could still decide that Browder’s actions were reasonable.

But the latest twist in the case shows that journalists’ coverage of the shooting and scrutiny of prosecutors’ version of events were right on all along.

What VOSD Learned This Week

Local emergency rooms are being flooded by mental health patients in crisis – and the resulting long waits can lead to nightmarish outcomes.

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Instead of moving to fire an elementary school teacher accused of molesting a student, San Diego Unified allowed him to retire and agreed to keep quiet about the incident.

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If you were worried there was nothing left in the water department to audit – fear not! – the latest report found an outrageous lack of planning for the multimillion-dollar smart water meter project. Meanwhile, local water agencies have racked up dozens of water-quality violations and one in particular revealed San Diego’s main drinking water treatment plant wasn’t doing everything it was supposed to do to kill viruses and a nasty parasite known as Giardia before water reached residents’ taps.

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What were local elected officials up to this week? Passing or pausing on big bills. Announcing a new development on the vision for a San Diego Grand Central Station. Answering our questions at our live podcast in Chula Vista. And upholding SANDAG’s plan to boost transit in the region.

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We hear a lot about the violence and poverty that often drives Central Americans to seek refuge in the United States. But in Maya Srikrishnan’s latest dispatch from Honduras, she drives home the role family ties play in migrants’ decisions to pursue a life in America.

What I’m Reading

Line of the Week

“The commission will hold each right up to the light and see if it sparks joy. (If it does, it will be folded so it takes up less space yet is more visible when we open the drawer.) If it does not, we briefly will clutch the right to ourselves, thank it for its past service, and place it in a nice, neat pile.” – You definitely shouldn’t be alarmed about Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s new human rights commission that may or may not eliminate human rights.

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