Support for LAist comes from
We Explain L.A.
Stay Connected

Share This

This is an archival story that predates current editorial management.

This archival content was written, edited, and published prior to LAist's acquisition by its current owner, Southern California Public Radio ("SCPR"). Content, such as language choice and subject matter, in archival articles therefore may not align with SCPR's current editorial standards. To learn more about those standards and why we make this distinction, please click here.


Here's A Chilling Video Of A Deadly Police Shooting Cops Tried To Cover Up

Before you
Dear reader, we're asking you to help us keep local news available for all. Your tax-deductible financial support keeps our stories free to read, instead of hidden behind paywalls. We believe when reliable local reporting is widely available, the entire community benefits. Thank you for investing in your neighborhood.

A chilling video has been released, showing officers gunning down an unarmed man they mistook for a bicycle suspect in Gardena.

The city of Gardena fought hard to keep the public from viewing the police dash-cam footage taken two years ago near West Redondo Beach Boulevard and South Western Avenue. The Los Angeles Times, the Associated Press, and Bloomberg had to file a lawsuit to have the footage be released to the public. They won their legal battle when U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson ordered the video to be released to the public on Tuesday, according to the L.A. Times. Since the city of Gardena paid the family of the victim, 35-year-old Ricardo Diaz Zeferino, $4.7 million in a settlement over the case, Wilson thought the video was of interest to the public since their tax money most likely went toward that payment.

"Moreover, defendants cannot assert a valid compelling interest in sealing the videos to cover up any wrongdoing on their part or to shield themselves from embarrassment," Wilson wrote in his decision, according to ABC 7.

Support for LAist comes from

In the grainy video that was captured on dash-cams mounted on patrol cars around 2:30 a.m. on June 2, 2013, we see three unarmed men standing in the street by bicycles. Officers surround them screaming repeatedly that they should put their hands up. One of the men, Diaz Zeferino appears confused as he steps forward, reaching his arms in the air and then putting his arms behind his head. He takes off the hat he's wearing, and appears to hold out his hands in front of him. That's when officers fire their guns at him, and he collapses to the ground.

Officers shot Diaz Zeferino eight times. He was pronounced dead at the scene. One of his friends, Eutiquio Mendez, was injured in the gunfire.

"The videos show cold-blooded shooting of clearly unarmed men," attorney R. Samuel Paz told the Los Angeles Times.

On the tragic night of the shooting, Gardena police officers were responding to a report that a bicycle was stolen outside of a CVS store. A dispatcher mistakenly told the officers that it was a robbery, which involves weapons or force.

Gardena Police Sgt. Christopher Cuff saw two men, Mendez and Jose Garcia, riding bicycles near the store. Mendez and Garcia were out helping their friend look for his stolen bicycle. However, Cuff said in court that he had "enough reasonable suspicion" to suspect the two were possibly involved in the theft of the bicycle.

Cuff then saw Diaz Zeferino jog over to the two men, suspecting him to be the third person involved in the alleged robbery. They would later find out that Diaz Zeferino was the brother of man whose bicycle was stolen.

The attorney for the family of Diaz Zeferino said that he was trying to explain to the officers that they didn't commit any crime, according to CBS Los Angeles.

ABC 7 reports that Diaz Zeferino was drunk at the time, and that an autopsy report later showed that he had a methamphetamine in his system.

The officers involved in the shooting argued that they couldn't see Diaz Zeferino's hands before they shot him. Cuff said he yelled out to Diaz Zeferino several times in English and Spanish to stop moving. Three other officers, Christopher Mendez, Christopher Sanderson and Matthew Toda, then shot Diaz Zeferino to death.

Just moments after that, police handcuffed Diaz Zeferino, who was limp and bloody.

Support for LAist comes from

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office reviewed the case and would not file charges against the officers involved in the shooting, saying they "acted in lawful self-defense and defense of others."

However, the city of Gardena would later settle a civil lawsuit for $4.7 million.