Downey Police scrutinized after fatally shooting unarmed man

DOWNEY - The Downey Police Department is under much scrutiny this week after the second officer-involved shooting this month left many local residents with more questions than answers.Homicide detectives at the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department are still investigating last Saturday's shooting, which left 31-year-old Michael Nida dead after Downey officers suspected the father of four may have been involved in a nearby armed robbery. Autopsy results released on Tuesday show that Nida sustained four gunshot wounds, all to the left side of his body, attributable to three rounds fired by a Downey police officer. According to investigators, Downey officers responded to a report of an armed robbery at a local ATM and encountered a man acting suspiciously, resembling the description of the alleged robber. At about 7:15 p.m. last Saturday night, as his wife pumped gas near Paramount Boulevard and Imperial Highway, Nida, according to family, walked across the street to purchase cigarettes. That's when he was confronted by Downey Police. Officers detained Nida but he escaped and ran into the yard of a nearby house. He was captured, but escaped again, leading officers on a short foot pursuit. Investigators report that while officers pursued Nida, he suddenly turned toward police "in an aggressive manner." "Fearing the suspect was armed, an officer fired at the suspect, striking him," sheriff's officials said in a news release. Nida, who was later discovered to be unarmed, was taken to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead. Sheriff's detectives have not confirmed whether Nida was involved in the initial robbery or not. On Tuesday, Downey Police Chief Rick Esteves released a statement offering his sincere condolences to the family while asking for patience from the community as the investigation proceeds. "While we recognize it is the public's desire to be informed of the facts in a timely manner, the investigation will take some time to complete," Esteves said. "In the interim, we must let justice take its course and allow this case to be investigated by a non-involved, independent organization." The police officer who shot Nida has been placed on paid administrative leave and will not return to duty until assessed and cleared by a doctor, which is standard protocol. The officer remains unidentified but was not involved in any previous officer-involved shooting in Downey, Esteves confirmed. Esteves said all Downey police officers are trained on an ongoing basis to use non-lethal force whenever possible. "There are some circumstances, however, where it can't be avoided," he said. The Downey Police Department has been cleared on all previous officer-involved shootings, Esteves added, both criminally and civilly. "Our police department understands the loss of human life is extremely tragic under any circumstance," Esteves said. "We sincerely offer our condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Nida." Once complete, the sheriff's investigation will be turned over to the Los Angeles District Attorney, which will determine if the shooting was justified. Sheriff's detectives are already investigating the Downey Police Department for an Oct. 12 fatal shooting near the intersection of Firestone Boulevard and Old River School Road where two Downey officers shot and killed 42-year-old Manuel Vargas, after he charged officers with a stick and pocket knife. Family members of Nida have established a fund to help pay for funeral expenses. Donations can be sent to the Michael Nida Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 3272, Huntington Beach, CA 92605. Nida, who would have turned 32 on Tuesday, is survived by a wife of 14 years and four children.

********** Published: October 27, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 28