Ricardo Diaz-Zeferino was running to the aid of two friends when he was gunned down by Gardena police in Sunday's predawn hours, according to the attorney for the slain man's family.
Investigators' initial statements indicated that the officers told Diaz-Zeferino "to place his hands in the air, but the suspect did not comply" and that the man "reached for his waistband area and advanced toward the officers."
But in this past week, witnesses to the shooting have given accounts that contradict those by law enforcement.
"He didn't reach for his waist," said Richard Samuel Paz, an attorney for the Diaz-Zeferino family as well as two witnesses to the shooting. "He was trying to explain and gesticulating with his hands near his chest."
The investigation into the officer-involved shooting is being handled by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, which is routine for such cases in Gardena.
Three police officers involved in the shooting have been placed on paid administrative leave.
Paz didn't say whether Diaz-Zeferino's family plans to file a lawsuit against the police or the city.
But the lawyer said he has started his own investigation, and interviewed the three men who were with Diaz-Zeferino on the night of the shooting.
That night, Diaz-Zeferino was having drinks at Mis Amigo's Bar in the 1700 block of Redondo Beach Boulevard with Garcia Jose Amado and Eutiquio Acevedo as well as his brother, Augustin de Jesus Reynoso.
Like Diaz-Zeferino, the other men were cooks in Asian restaurants that dot the stretch of Western Avenue just north of Redondo Beach Boulevard.
"Saturday night, (Diaz-Zeferino) and another worker left the restaurant when their shifts ended and went to a nearby bar, Amigos," said Chang Moon, who worked alongside Diaz-Zeferino at Guejit, a Gardena restaurant owned by Moon's mother. "It was pay day."
Sometime after midnight, Reynoso's crossed the street and walked into a CVS to buy a lottery scratch-off ticket.
Reynoso left his bike outside the store and it was stolen. A CVS employee called 9-1-1 reporting the crime.
Somehow the theft report was misinterpreted as a robbery, police Lt. Steve Prendergast said.
"The information that was dispatched to the officers was a robbery call. The dispatch said there were unknown weapons," Prendergast said. "Generally, that means they don't know if weapons are involved in the crime."
Officers racing to the scene saw Amado and Acevedo riding their bikes, and stopped the two men in front of Carrows restaurant in the 1600 block of Redondo Beach Boulevard to question whether they were the suspects to the reported robbery, Prendergast said.
Diaz-Zeferino, who was on foot, was waving his arms and running up the street to tell the police the men they had stopped did not commit the crime, the family lawyer said.
"He was trying to tell the cops that they are not the ones who stole the bicycles," Paz said.
When the shots rang out, patrons inside the Carrows dove to the floor, according to the night manager, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The manager said Diaz-Zeferino's hands were not by his waistband but in the air. Acevedo and Amado made similar statements.
"The guy they killed had his hands up. I know that," the manager said. "You could see his arms high up in the air."
A single shot rang out, followed by a pause and then a flurry of shots, the manager said.
Acevedo "was struck in the back and had his hands up at the time he was shot. He was facing away from the officers," Paz said.
Flowers and votive candles mark where Diaz-Zeferino was gunned down. His picture adorns the memorial. At Mis Amigos, a box with Diaz-Zeferino's picture taped to the side rests on the bar. The box has a slot cut into the top to collect money for Diaz-Zeferino's family.
Moon, who knew Diaz-Zeferino for more than 10 years, is having trouble making sense of the tragedy.
"It happened over a bike that's maybe worth $200. They didn't have to shoot him," Moon said.
The Police Department said it will release an audio copy of the 9-1-1 call within the next two weeks.
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