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San Diego Media Win Access to Cop Shooting Video Footage

SAN DIEGO (CN) - A federal judge made a swift decision on Wednesday to unseal surveillance video footage of the shooting death of an unarmed mentally ill man by a San Diego police officer.

After hearing arguments Tuesday on San Diego media outlets' request to unseal the footage, U.S. District Judge William Hayes of the Southern District of California lifted the seal. He stayed the order for seven days, however, to allow any party in the case to file an appeal.

Hayes heard arguments Tuesday presented by media outlets Voice of San Diego, KPBS, The Union Tribune, Inewsource and KGTV Channel 10 news on why there was not good cause to keep video taken by a security camera in a public alley in Point Loma sealed.

The arguments presented by the defendants in the case - the city of San Diego and San Diego police officer Neal Browder - led to lengthy back-and-forth questioning by Hayes, who said establishing good cause to maintain the seal is a difficult standard to meet and cited other judges who have said the standard cannot be met.

"There is no evidence to suggest that the public dissemination of the information from this case currently limited by the protective order could meet this standard or that peremptory challenges and instructions to the jury would not be sufficient to obtain a fair and impartial jury," Hayes wrote in the 8-page order.

Browder, a 27-year-veteran of the San Diego Police Department, shot and killed 42-year-old Fridoon Rawshan Nehad on April 30 while responding to a call of a man threatening people with a knife. Police later confirmed Nehad was unarmed and was holding a metallic pen at the time of the shooting.

The media outlets originally sought access to the footage through a public records request that was denied by the department, which cited an exemption in the state's Public Records Act for denying access to records used in an ongoing investigation.

Once the order is lifted, Nehad's family can share their copy of the video with the outlets and the public. The family said they were required to enter into the order before they were allowed to view and get a copy of the video.

San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said last month she would not file criminal charges against Browder, but attorneys for the city said during the hearing a federal investigation into the shooting may be opened.

Guylyn Cummins, who represented the media outlets, praised Hayes' decision.

"We are pleased with the judge's decision," Cummins said. "We think the information shielded from the protective order is important for the public to see."

At least five city council members also announced via Twitter they would not vote to fight the order, including David Alvarez, Todd Gloria, Myrtle Cole, Scott Sherman and Chris Cate.

It is unknown if Browder will appeal, and his attorneys did not return a phone call requesting comment.

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