Cop Admits He “Saw No Weapon” But Shot Mentally Ill Man to Death Anyway
SAN DIEGO (CN) – An official police statement released by the family of a mentally ill man shot and killed by a San Diego officer reveals the officer did not see any weapons at the time of the shooting.
In the statement released Wednesday, Officer Neal Browder initially told investigators the night of April 30 after shooting 42-year-old Fridoon Nehad that he didn’t see any weapons on Nehad – a statement he later contradicted when investigators formally interviewed him on May 5.
In the formal interview, Browder told investigators from the homicide unit that he saw what looked like a metal object in Nehad’s hand and immediately thought he had a knife. Browder also said he couldn’t recall if he exchanged words with Nehad or commanded him to stop, although two witnesses said that he did.
According to the statement, Browder said he believed without a doubt he would have been stabbed had he not shot Nehad.
Nehad turned out to be unarmed. The shiny metal object in his hand was a metallic pen.
The revelation comes a day after San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis hosted a press conference where she publicly shared surveillance camera footage from a nearby business that caught the shooting on tape, along with other footage from a nearby adult video store and strip club where Nehad had threatened employees. But Dumanis declined to release the statement made by Browder, which the victim’s family went public with a day later.
Dumanis released the footage a day before a protective order on the tape was lifted by U.S. District Judge William Hayes of the Southern District of California. A handful of media outlets, along with Nehad’s family, took Browder and the city of San Diego to court to make the surveillance tape public.
The court order did not require Dumanis to share the footage publicly, but the court’s decision to unseal the video allowed the family to go public with their own copy of the video as well as Browder’s statement.
Dumanis said she wanted to paint a complete picture of what happened that night, and that “viewing the video alone provides an incomplete picture of what happened.”
“The video in and of itself does not tell the complete story and I think it’s important for the public to see, in evaluating that, the complete picture of what happened,” Dumanis said.
Skip Miller, an attorney for Nehad’s family, said they were “surprised and puzzled” by the DA’s actions to release the footage.
“The video makes it clear that Fridoon was not an imminent threat and that the officer had options available besides killing Fridoon,” Miller said in a statement.
The surveillance footage shows Browder driving up the alley where Nehad was walking, with his high beams on but not his overhead flashing lights. Nehad was walking at a normal, even slowed pace – though there is dispute over whether he came to a complete stop – when he was shot once by Browder in the upper chest.
The officer immediately ran over to Nehad and began administering first aid – holding his finger inside the bullet wound to stop the bleeding, according to Dumanis. The whole incident played out in about 30 seconds.
Browder did not have his department-issued body camera turned on at the time of the shooting, but the footage from another responding officer’s camera was also shared by the DA.
Dumanis, San Diego Police Chief Shelly Zimmerman, San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore and U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy have convened a “taskforce” to come up with a policy for releasing police video footage in the future.
The shooting is currently being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice, and Nehad’s family has filed a lawsuit claiming violations of the man’s civil rights.
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