LOS ANGELES (AP) — A federal judge said Monday he was inclined to rule in favor of news media companies seeking video of a fatal police shooting of an unarmed man in a Los Angeles suburb two years ago.
Public interest weighs in favor of unsealing unpleasant but not gory footage of the shooting of Ricardo Diaz-Zeferino recorded on three police car cameras, Judge Stephen V. Wilson said.
Making the videos public allows viewers to determine if the officers were justified in the shooting — as prosecutors decided — and weigh whether the city of Gardena, California, was wise to spend $4.7 million to settle a suit brought by Diaz-Zeferino’s family and another man who was injured.
“To give away millions of dollars in taxpayer money and claim it was justified doesn’t seem to come together,” Wilson said.
A lawyer for The Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times and Bloomberg argued the public has a First Amendment right to see the video.
The hearing came at a time of heightened scrutiny in shootings by officers and amid an ongoing debate over whether footage shot on a growing number of police cameras should be made public.
Diaz-Zeferino was searching for his brother’s stolen bicycle early the morning of June 2, 2013, when officers stopped him and two other friends. The unlocked bike was swiped outside a CVS pharmacy, but dispatchers erroneously relayed the crime as a robbery, raising the possibility suspects could be armed.
Diaz-Zeferino, who was drunk and had methamphetamine in his system, was shot when he wouldn’t comply with orders to keep his hands down, according to an investigative review of the killing.
“As long as the video is not released, the city of Gardena will continue to spin the facts,” Sonia Mercado, an attorney for Diaz-Zeferino’s family, said before the hearing. “Once released, the public will see that my clients didn’t do anything wrong. They were standing there with their hands up in the air.”
Lawyers for Gardena said releasing the video could lead to a “rush to judgment” against those officers, and it would make law enforcement agencies reconsider using cameras that are increasingly being mounted in patrol cars and worn by cops.
While promoted by some as a tool to hold officers accountable, cameras can also help clear them in shootings and other confrontations.
In fact, the cameras that recorded the shooting supported witness accounts that Diaz-Zeferino wouldn’t obey orders to stand still and keep his hands up, according to a report by the Los Angeles district attorney that determined the shooting was justified. Diaz-Zeferino was shot eight times after repeatedly reaching for his pants.
Citing the fatal shooting of unarmed black 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, last summer, Gardena lawyer Mildred O’Linn said releasing the video would jeopardize the officers involved in the shooting.
“Darren Wilson of the Ferguson Police Department will never work again,” she said.
Wilson countered that viewers may determine the shooting was reasonable after watching what he noted was “not one of these foggy videos” that is hard to understand.
O’Linn said the media tends to sensationalize such footage.
“That’s such a broad generalization,” the judge said. “People can make their own minds up.”
O’Linn said the camera angle from the officer’s viewpoint was “not likely to receive a lot of air time.”
“That’s the risk we pay for a free press,” Wilson said. “Hopefully, the press as a whole is fair-minded. If not, it’s not this court’s concern.”
Wilson said he’d rule in the next few days.
Attorneys for Gardena asked him to stay any ruling against them so they can appeal.
NEW YORK (AP) — Comcast, the country’s largest cable company, is offering its own online video alternative as people spend fewer hours watching live TV and more time using tablets and phones for entertainment.
The new service, called Stream, will be available to Comcast’s Internet customers and cost $15 a month. For now, it will include only broadcast networks like FOX and NBC in addition to HBO, but no cable channels like AMC or TNT.
Anyone can watch broadcast networks for free on a TV with an antenna, which costs about $20 and up. And HBO already sells a stand-alone streaming service for $15 a month.
Comcast has ambitions to offer more TV online, however. It wants to add cable channels over the next year so that online TV subscribers have “access to any of the content we have available” for traditional cable customers by the end of March in 2016, said Marcien Jenckes, Comcast Cable’s executive vice president for consumer services. Prices will be similar to traditional cable, he said.
Comcast’s service, which is only for its customers, follows the launch earlier this year of Dish Network’s nationwide Internet TV service, Sling TV, which sells for $20 a month and includes cable channels like ESPN, AMC and Food Network. You can also add on HBO. A slew of Internet TV options have come in the past year as many cable and TV companies think younger customers prefer to watch TV online, without paying for a full bundle that can easily top $70 a month.
The ability to smother competitors’ online TV services was a major reason why regulators were concerned about Comcast’s bid to buy Time Warner Cable. It would have created a TV and Internet behemoth that would serve more than half of the country’s high-speed Internet customers, as calculated by the government.
The deal never went through. Comcast dropped its bid in April.
Comcast Corp., which is based in Philadelphia, said Monday that it will launch the service in Boston at the end of the summer, followed by Chicago and Seattle. It plans to make it available to all its Internet service customers by early 2016. Jenckes declined to say how many customers Comcast hoped to win online.
Comcast had more than 22 million Internet customers at the end of the first quarter.
The Stream service has limitations. You can watch live TV at home but there are rights restrictions for a lot of live content if you want to watch on your phone outside your home network.
It will work on computers, tablets and phones but won’t work directly on TVs. Instead, users can log in to HBO’s app and other channel apps through TV-connected gadgets like an Apple TV or Roku, for example.
Stream does come with a DVR service that can store 20 hours of video.
Many young people like sharing passwords for online TV accounts with their friends. Stream allows only two streams on separate devices at the same time.
Like with Dish’s Sling TV, Stream customers could sign up online and disconnect the service at any time. A major complaint about cable service is contracts that are difficult to escape and having to drop off set-top boxes and other equipment after canceling service.
Damian Troise contributed to this report.
RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — An Israeli human rights group released a video Sunday that purports to show a high-ranking Israeli officer fatally shooting a fleeing Palestinian teenager who had thrown a rock at his vehicle, smashing its windshield.
The surveillance camera footage appears to undercut earlier claims by the military that the officer, Col. Israel Shomer, a brigade commander, opened fire on July 3 because his life was in danger.
The video released by the B’Tselem rights group shows a Palestinian rushing at the vehicle, throwing an object at the windshield and running away. The vehicle then stops, a soldier jumps out, aims his gun and charges. The soldier’s face cannot be seen clearly and the video has no sound.
The military earlier said that Shomer had exhausted “all measures” before firing at 17-year-old Mohammed al-Kusbah and released pictures of the vehicle’s smashed windshield. On Sunday, the Israeli military said it was still investigating the shooting and declined to comment further.
Palestinian Hospital physician Samer Saliba said at the time that al-Kusbah was shot in the face and back.
B’Tselem said the footage makes the military’s earlier explanation “unreasonable” and called the killing “unlawful.”
Thaer al-Kusbah, the brother of the teen killed, said the officer could have apprehended him rather than shooting him dead.
“It’s clear that Mohammed threw a stone, and the officer came out of the car. He could have arrested him, he could have shot him in the leg, but he wanted to kill him,” al-Kusbah said.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Months after ordering the public release of more than two dozen videos that show the force-feeding of a Guantanamo Bay detainee, a federal judge on Friday directed the government to move the process forward by getting eight of the recordings ready by next month.
The judge in October had directed the Justice Department to publicly release videotapes showing the feeding of Syrian hunger-striking prisoner Abu Wa’el Dhiab. But she said at the time that the tapes would remain sealed until some of the information on them — such as voices and faces of prison workers — could be redacted.
In a five-page order Friday, she told the government to complete by August 31 the redaction of 8 of 32 videos that are being released. She also ordered redactions by September of a separate compilation, a roughly 75-minute video that was prepared by Dhiab’s attorneys.
Media organizations including The Associated Press had asked the judge to unseal the videos, saying the public has a significant interest in how the government is treating terror suspects held at the detention facility.
“We want to get all of the tapes, and we want to get all of them as quickly as we can,” David Schulz, a lawyer for the media groups, said at a hearing Thursday.
Justice Department lawyers have fought those demands, and in December asked a federal appeals court to overturn Kessler’s decision and to extend the delay in releasing the tapes until the appeal is resolved.
U.S. officials had argued that the release of the videos would inflame anti-American sentiment, but Kessler has appeared skeptical of that argument. She also criticized the government for what she said has been a monthslong delay in complying with her order and for filing an appeal of her decision that she said was as “frivolous” as she had ever seen.
“The only thing consistent about the government’s position has been its constant plea for more time,” Kessler wrote.
She added: “In the months since the court ordered redaction and release of the 32 videotapes, the government has made almost no progress in completing its redactions.”
MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexican soldiers have detected and removed a total of 136 video cameras installed by a drug cartel to monitor movement on the streets of the border city of Reynosa, across from McAllen, Texas. The city is home to a faction of the Gulf cartel.
The government of the border state of Tamaulipas said Thursday that the cameras were mounted on light and telephone poles.
The scandal first came to light in May, when authorities seized the first 39 cameras. Soldiers found 18 more cameras in three Reynosa neighborhoods Wednesday.
The government did not say where exactly the cameras were pointed, but several of the cameras seized in May were trained on an army base. Others captured the scene outside offices of the attorney general and other government agencies.
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan Department of Corrections has denied a production company’s request to film a Kid Rock music video inside an Ypsilanti women’s prison.
Department of Corrections communications director Chris Gautz says the company wanted Kid Rock to perform for prisoners at the Huron Valley Correctional Facility in southeastern Michigan.
Gautz tells The Detroit News (http://bit.ly/1KVTzpk ) that holding a concert at the 2,000-inmate prison would create “a host of security issues.” He says building a concert stage could lead to unaccounted pieces of it being used as weapons.
Gautz says the Department of Corrections is talking with the Los Angeles-based production company about filming a music video for Kid Rock at a vacant maximum security prison at Standish about 140 miles northeast of Detroit.
Information from: The Detroit News, http://detnews.com/