The San Diego district attorney’s office has finally released footage showing the shocking moment a law enforcement officer gunned down a mentally ill man armed with a pen.
The incident happened on April 30 when San Diego Police Officer Neal Browder was summoned to a bookstore investigating reports of a knife-wielding man threatening people.
Warning: Video features graphic content. Viewer discretion advised.
The video, taken from a nearby store’s surveillance camera, shows Afghan army veteran and PTSD sufferer Fridoon Rawshan Nehad walking toward Officer Browder’s cruiser before the officer leaps out and proceeds to fire multiple shots.
District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis argued Tuesday following release of the video that the footage did not accurately portray the moments leading up to the fatal shooting.
“Viewing the video alone provides an incomplete picture of what happened that night,” Dumanis said. “The community should have the ability to weigh the video along with other evidence that provides a complete picture.”
Speaking at a press conference, Dumanis also showed a close-up of the pen Nehad was twirling in his hand before he was shot, and attempted to illustrate how the officer could have perceived the “shiny object” to be a deadly weapon.
In November Dumanis announced the district attorney’s office would not file charges against Officer Browder, citing an independent expert’s opinion that he used deadly force in order to suppress an immediate threat to his life.
Officer Browder also told investigators he was certain he would have been stabbed if he had not acted quickly.
“He was going to stab me. There’s no doubt in my mind that he was going to stab me,” Officer Browder stated.
The Nehad family in May hired an attorney and sued the City of San Diego for $2 million claiming the surveillance video, which at the time had not been publicly released, proved the shooting was unjustified.
“They are covering up what happened, circling the wagons, or so it would appear, and refusing to be up front, refusing to turn the lights on, refusing to disclose it,” the family’s attorney Skip Martin said in May.
The lawsuit claimed the video showed Nehad had not provoked the officer.
“A police officer can use deadly force only if he is confronted with deadly force or if somebody’s life is in danger,” the lawsuit reads. “Nobody’s life was in danger here. Fridoon did not challenge Browder with deadly force. Fridoon did not challenge Browder at all.”
The lawsuit also highlighted that Nehad had fled to the US to avoid conscription, took medication to treat PTSD as a result of trauma suffered while he was a two-month prisoner of war under the Mujahideen – and demonstrated how his mental competency was questionable at best.
A Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement official also commented in May that Nehad was “under supervised release pending removal,” likely indicating he was in the process of being deported.
The case also came under fire from the ACLU after it was revealed Officer Browder did not activate his body camera prior to the incident, prompting a change in SDPD policies.
The US Justice Department and FBI have opened up a federal investigation into the case amid calls from the family’s attorney.
Following the shooting, NBC San Diego profiled Nehad revealing a history of violence and making deadly threats, chronic mental illness and frequent brushes with law enforcement.
The family’s attorney released a statement following release of the surveillance footage expressing surprise, puzzlement and disappointment “by the DA’s continued attempt to demonize Fridoon.”
“The true facts make clear that, if the San Diego police department followed better procedures, this tragedy could and should have been avoided,” the statement reads.