Shocking video of a real 'Hands Up, Don't Shoot' situation shows why dash cams aren't enough


Police cameras are not the answer.

Police footage released out of Gardena, California, this week shows a man getting killed in a hail of bullets, and another wounded, after they were stopped and mistakenly accused of stealing a bicycle. The three men in the video, obtained by the Los Angeles Times, are clearly seen with their hands above their heads, in the universal symbol of “I’m not posing a threat.” One of the men, Ricardo Diaz Zeferino, while mostly keeping his hands up in the air, appears confused at officers’ instructions. At a few points, he momentarily drops his hands to his side.

Just after one of these instances, after he takes a baseball cap off his head, police unleash the barrage of eight bullets, killing him and wounding one of his friends, who later recovered.

Throughout the video, which was ordered released on Tuesday night by a federal judge, a laser dot can be seen trained on Diaz Zeferino.

The officers in the case were not prosecuted. The city fought long and hard to keep the video, dated from 2013, under wraps, even after a $4.7 million settlement was paid to Diaz Zeferino’s family. The judge who ordered the video released said the fact that the incident cost taxpayers such an amount of money only “strengthens the public’s interest in seeing the videos.”

This case is not like that of Michael Brown. It is not like that of Tamir Rice. It is not like that of Eric Garner or Freddie Gray.

In this case there are two clear video angles that show exactly what transpired in the moments leading up to the shooting, including the shooting itself. And yet the videos did not lead to the prosecution of the officers involved. Instead, they bolstered the police department’s claim that “Diaz Zeferino’s right hand was no longer visible from the officers’ angle” and the officers made a “split-second decision” to shoot because they couldn’t determine if he was about to attack them, as reported in the Los Angeles Times.

If this case does anything, it proves that police cameras are not the answer to the ongoing tensions between police and civilian groups—especially those of color.

“Hands up, don’t shoot” was found to be built on a lie in the case of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. But now we have to confront with the fact that even if it had been true, it might not have made a difference.

Daniel Rivero is a producer/reporter for Fusion who focuses on police and justice issues. He also skateboards, does a bunch of arts related things on his off time, and likes Cuban coffee.

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