By Charlene Muhammad CHARLENEM
LOS ANGELES–Attorneys for the family of a man slain by Gardena police officers is calling on the Justice Department to create a special unit to investigate police killings in America, starting with that city’s police force.
The Gardena Police Department failed to properly internally investigate the June 2, 2013 fatal shooting of Ricardo Diaz Zeferino, civil rights Attorney Sonia Mercado said during a July 15 press conference in front of a federal courthouse in downtown L.A.
Mr. Zeferino’s family reached a $4.7 million settlement with the City of Gardena. After seeing video of the incident ordered released by Federal Judge Stephen Wilson, they reiterated demands that the officers be disciplined. Gardena fought release of the video, but Judge Wilson ruled on July 14 taxpayers had a right to know why the money was being spent.
“It’s time that we as a nation wake up, recognize that we cannot continue wasting money and recognize that to save another life, every police department where there is a killing of an unarmed innocent man must be investigated by an independent body which falls upon the U.S. Department of Justice to create such a body so that the public can have trust again,” Atty. Mercado told reporters.
District Attorney Jackie Lacey declined to press charges against the officers following an independent investigation conducted by Greg Meyer, a retired LAPD captain and Richard Marks, a retired LAPD senior detective. Police acted within policy, she concluded.
National community leaders and police watchdog activists told The Final Call they are outraged over what’s depicted in police dash cam videos.
Mr. Zeferino and two of his friends (Eutiquio Acevedo Mendez–who survived a shot to the back and Jose Garcia) were looking for his brother’s stolen bike. When the family called 911 for help, a dispatcher called it in as a robbery.
Mr. Zeferino was trying to explain to officers they were the ones who called for help, his friends and family said. Mr. Zeferino held his hands above his head, moved them to his sides, and at one point behind his head. He removed his cap and then raised his hands again. When he dropped his hands down again, police opened fire, striking Mr. Zeferino eight times.
“This video is a reminder that Latino lives mean nothing to the mind that is sickened by White superiority,” said Student Minister Abel Muhammad, Latino Representative of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan.
“I have seen videos with armed Caucasians that are never even wounded. But the police see us as a threat– because they see us as illegal and criminals. This has to stop, and it is exactly untold cases such as this one caught on video, that we must come together and unite,” he stated.
Student Minister Muhammad said it’s sickening that a judge had to order the video’s release in order for the incident to come to light. It also shows how many similar cases are hidden and how many poor Mexican and Latin American families lose their lives in cover-ups by crooked police, he said.
This case and others like it also solidifies the importance of Minister Farrakhan’s call for 10-10-15–Justice Or Else, the 20th Anniversary of the Million Man March in Washington, D.C., he added. “The call for Justice is not a Black call–though at the center of it is Black people who have suffered the greatest of injustices, along with our Native and Indigenous family, for five centuries,” Student Minister Muhammad said.
Activists point out that across America, Latinos are victimized by excessive police violence, and more needs to be said and done about cases like 37-year-old Omar Abrego, killed in front of his home by LAPD on August 2, 2014.
Police say he was driving erratically, almost hit a pedestrian, and refused to stop when ordered. His family and witnesses alleged officers beat him to death.
On February 10, 2015, police in Pasco, Washington shot at 35-year-old Antonio Zambrano-Montes 17 times because he was throwing rocks at cars and police. His family is suing the city for $25 million.
Even the Mexican government spoke out after three Mexican citizens were killed in February, including Mr. Zambrano-Montes. Its Foreign Ministry called on the Department of Justice to monitor the cases to ensure investigations are thorough and transparent.
Meanwhile, Alex Salazar, a private investigator and retired LAPD officer, called the shooting by Gardena police a straight out execution. The officers didn’t even stand behind the police car for cover as they’re supposed to with a potentially violent threat to their officer safety, he observed.
“The City of Gardena fought hard to conceal this video because they know the heightened awareness of activists today in the post Michael Brown era. They are afraid people are going to riot and perhaps even plan attacks against the police for what appears to be an itchy trigger caused by a worn out clichÃ© of “I was in fear for my life,” Mr. Salazar told The Final Call.
Jubilee Shine, a grassroots L.A.-based activist, criticized D.A. Lacey, saying in case after case of unjust excessive force, she gives police officers a pass.
“She had the video for two years and did nothing…Whether it’s Ezell Ford (a mentally ill Black man killed by LAPD Aug. 11, 2014) or Omar Abrego, we see Jackie Lacey is just another prosecutor in the D.A.’s office and her loyalties do not lie with the community. They lie with law enforcement,” Mr. Shine charged.