SAN DIEGO — A San Diego police officer was legally justified in fatally shooting a mentally ill homeless man who advanced toward him with what he thought was a knife, San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis announced today.
Officer Neal Browder shot and killed 42-year-old Fridoon Rawshan Nehad on April 30.
The 27-year-old SDPD veteran was responding to a radio call about a man threatening people with a knife in the Midway District, Dumanis said.
She said Nehad — who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and had a violent past with his family — kept advancing on the officer in an alley and was twirling and manipulating a shiny object that looked like a knife, but turned out to be a metallic pen.
Dumanis cited the case to call for improved outreach and treatment for the county’s more than 8,000 homeless, many of whom are mentally ill.
“Nationwide, more than 11 million individuals cycle in and out of county-operated jails every year and up to 64 percent of them suffer from mental illness,” Dumanis said. “People shouldn’t have to wait until they land in jail or find themselves in a life-threatening situation to receive the mental health treatment and care they deserve.”
A letter sent to San Diego police Chief Shelley Zimmerman on the results of the investigation into the shooting said two witnesses heard the officer demand that Nehad drop the knife. Nehad was 17 feet from the officer when he fired.
Dumanis said Browder fired 32 seconds after arriving on scene.
When asked what he believed when the situation was unfolding, Browder said he thought Nehad was going to stab him.
Toxicology tests showed Nehad had cannabinoids and THC in his system at the time of the shooting.
While the officer’s body-worn camera was not turned on, Dumanis’ letter to Zimmerman notes that video surveillance of the incident exists.
“The video captured this incident from one angle, high up on a pole, without audio,” Dumanis said. “It did not capture what Officer Browder could see, what he sensed, what he said, or what he reasonably believed. Should the video ever be released in the future, I hope the public will view it in the context of all the evidence.”
Dumanis said her office’s four-month review showed there were many opportunities and attempts made to get Nehad into treatment and get him the long-term help he needed.