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Appeals court dismisses suit over police shooting video

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A Los Angeles suburb's claim that a judge prematurely released video of police shooting an unarmed man was dismissed by a federal appeals court Monday.

The video by police in the city of Gardena was widely published after its release in 2015. The city failed to show it will face a similar fight over police video in the future, a three-judge panel of 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said.

The panel dismissed the city’s appeal. A call to an attorney who represented Gardena was not immediately returned.

U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson ordered the video released after saying it was important for the public to see whether the 2013 fatal shooting of Ricardo Diaz-Zeferino was justified. He also said it was important in understanding why the city had agreed to pay $4.7 million to settle the case.

The video had been sought by The Associated Press and other news organizations at a time when intense public scrutiny was starting to focus on police shootings nationwide.

“We’re very happy with the court’s decision to let stand what is an important victory for public transparency,” Brian Barrett, AP’s assistant general counsel, said in a statement.

Gardena officials said Wilson abused his discretion by not halting release of the video while they appealed to the 9th Circuit for an order putting the decision on hold. The 9th Circuit did not address that claim in its decision.

Diaz-Zeferino was killed June 2, 2013, by police searching for a bike thief. Diaz-Zeferino was searching for the bike — stolen from his brother — when he and two friends were stopped by police.

Footage showed Diaz-Zeferino, who was drunk and had methamphetamine in his system, failing to follow police orders to keep his hands up.

The officers said they feared he was reaching for a weapon, though they later found he was not armed. Prosecutors said the shooting was justified and declined to bring charges.

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