More details released in San Diego cop shooting of unarmed man
District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. Credit: KPBS

More details released in San Diego cop shooting of unarmed man

Two San Diego Police Department reports on the fatal shooting of Fridoon Rashawn Nehad by Officer Neal Browder portray a murky picture of some of the events leading up to the incident.

The documents were released by Nehad’s family on Wednesday, along with five minutes of footage from surveillance cameras that captured the moment of the shooting. The family is suing the city and Browder over the shooting.

District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis released the same footage on Tuesday after she said for months that it should not be made public.

KPBS, inewsource and three other news organizations sued for the release of the video.

The reports released Wednesday have discrepancies in what Browder said to Nehad before he shot him.

The report from the crime scene cites two witnesses to the shooting. The first witness said he “clearly heard Officer Browder state, ‘Drop it,'” according to the report. The second witness described Browder as taking “a semi-aggressive stance,” and that he “heard one pop and did not hear the officer say anything to the person.”

Dumanis last month completed her own review of the shooting, in which she chose not to file charges against Browder.

In that review she wrote, “two of the witnesses heard Browder demand that Nehad drop the knife. Another witness believed that Browder told Nehad to stop.”

Dumanis goes on to say the third witness “could not remember actually hearing the officer say the words ‘stop’ but he was sure he said something similar to that.”

On Wednesday, Dumanis’ office declined to comment further and referred to her description of the events on Tuesday.

The Nehad family also released a report by San Diego Police Sgt. Manuel Del Toro detailing the police department’s interviews with Browder. The first interview taken at the scene of the shooting was interrupted by a lawyer from the San Diego Police Officers Association.

In the report, Del Toro states:

“I asked officer BROWDER if he saw any weapons and he stated ‘No.’ I asked this question to learn what evidence we needed to look for in the alley. At this point, Police Officer’s Association Attorney Brad FIELDS interjected and said Officer BROWDER would not be answering that at this time.”

When Browder was interviewed again on May 5, five days after the shooting, he said:

“I see something in (Nehad’s) hand and then that’s what I keyed on and it looked like it was a metal object… And the first thing in my mind is, ‘He’s armed with a knife.'”

On Tuesday, Dumanis said Browder believed Nehad was armed with a knife, and showed a photo of the pen he was carrying, which was blue with a silver tip. She showed a video of Nehad twirling the pen, which Dumanis said was similar in style to how someone might twirl a butterfly knife.

In the police report released Wednesday, Browder was asked if there were any words exchanged between him and Nehad. He said:

“You know at that point, it happened so quick, I can’t even remember if I told him anything or not…”

Among the videos released by Dumanis on Tuesday, one shows Nehad walking down an alley toward Browder’s patrol car. The car had its headlights on, but not its patrol lights. No statements in any of the documents describe Browder as identifying himself to Nehad as a police officer.

Nehad was a 42-year-old immigrant from Afghanistan with a history of mental illness. A 911 caller reported him holding a knife and making death threats. No knife was recovered from the crime scene, and what Browder mistook as a knife in Nehad’s hand was actually a metallic pen.

Dumanis said on Tuesday an estimated 50 percent of people shot by the police in the United States are mentally ill.

“We are also hopeful that part of the discussion generated by the release of these videos will be about how to better help the homeless who suffer from mental illness in San Diego County,” she said.

Nehad’s family told the online news site Voice of San Diego that Nehad was not homeless, but liked to wander the streets at night.

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