SAN DIEGO (AP) — A San Diego police officer who shot and killed a transient within seconds of exiting his car initially told investigators that he didn’t see a weapon but said days later that he recalled thinking the man might be carrying a knife, according to a report released Wednesday.
Officer Neal Browder answered “no” when asked the day of the April 30 shooting if he saw a weapon, at which time his attorney said his client wouldn’t elaborate. Five days later, police let Browder and his attorney watch a business’ surveillance video for about 20 minutes before another interview.
Browder, who was responding to a 911 call of a knife-wielding suspect, said in the second interview that he saw Fridoon Nehad, 42, carrying what looked like a metal object as the suspect walked down a dark alley toward the police car.
It turned out Nehad was wielding a pen.
“The first thing in my mind is, ‘He’s armed with a knife.’ I mean that’s, that’s the first thought that was coming through my mind after. ‘He’s still armed with a knife.’ And then the next thing is, like, why isn’t he stopping?” Browder told investigators.
San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis on Tuesday released the surveillance footage, which showed Browder firing a single shot to Nehad’s chest about four seconds after exiting his car.
Attorneys for the Nehad family, who filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city and the officer, released additional evidence Wednesday, including the officer’s initial account and an interview transcript.
“It tells me the investigation was totally inappropriate, improper, inadequate,” said Skip Miller, a family attorney.
Attorneys for Browder didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
The district attorney explained her decision not to prosecute the 27-year department veteran in a letter last month to the police chief. She wrote that it was widely recognized that allowing officers to view video before being interviewed produces more detailed, reliable statements.
The family attorney also said Wednesday said evidence in the crime scene report shows the officer was about 25 feet from Nehad when he fired, not about 17 feet, as the district attorney concluded.
Last week, a federal judge cleared the way for release of the video and other evidence on a request by The San Diego Union-Tribune, Voice of San Diego, KGTV-TV, KPBS and inewsource.
Nehad, an Afghan immigrant, had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, according to his family’s lawsuit.