Nida, a married father of four, was unarmed when he was shot in the back by a police officer. The night Nida was shot, police were responding to a report of an ATM robbery near Imperial Highway and Paramount Boulevard. Police said they stopped Nida after they believed he was a suspect in the ATM robbery. Nida twice ran from police before he was shot in the back by a Downey Police officer armed with a machine gun. Police later learned Nida had nothing to do with the ATM robbery and was out on a date with his wife a few days before his 31st birthday. Official police reports said Nida made an “aggressive” move the moments leading up to the shooting.
Marchers started at the intersection and marched in the street toward City Hall.
Unlike other recent high-profile fatal police encounters, the incident in Downey was not captured by a video recording, and the family and friends of Michael Nida for months have worked to bring attention to the shooting.
“His wife was standing right there, but she didn’t think to take out her phone and tape what was happening,” said Jean Thaxton, a relative of Nida who raised Nida from his birth and acted as his mother, about the night of Nida’s death. “I don’t blame her at all. What happened that night was horrible.”
Whitaker said citizens need to demand facts from the Downey Police Department about what happened the night of the shooting. In the beating death of Kelly Thomas by Fullerton Police Department officers, a police recording and dozens of other cell phone videos of the beating have been produced, Whitaker said. Two of the officers have been charged with criminal counts related to Thomas’ killing.
“We were fortunate that they got caught by a their own Homeland Security provided camera,” said Whitaker, who had only been on the City Council for a few months when Thomas was killed.
He said Downey Police should release all information regarding the case and call for an outside investigation of Nida’s death.
Downey Police so far have declined to release pictures of the alleged ATM robbers to the general public.
“They’re inhibiting the public’s right to know what happened,” Whitaker said.
Whitaker was one of several protestors from Anaheim and Fullerton to participate in the march in Downey.
Anaheim has been set with unrest after a police shot a man earlier this month. Police there have asked outside agencies to investigate recent shootings.
Missing from Saturday’s protest were Downey residents. Most of those who marched were from Nida’s home neighborhood of Hollydale in South Gate, while others were from other communities or were affiliated with other social movements, such as socialism or nationwide campaigns to reduce violence by police officers.
Nida’s friend Damion Ramirez, who has helped Nida’s sisters and parents bring attention to Nida’s case, said he believed Downey residents did care about the shooting.
“I’m not disappointed in Downey at all,” he said. “Who wants to come out here on a hot day and march in the street? A lot of people are honking and showing their support. I think they have been opening their eyes the last 9 months about what happened. Look, I went to Warren. And I know Downey is a community people are proud to live. I want Downey to stay that way.”
The shooting is being investigated by the District Attorney’s Office, and results are expected within a month or two.
Meanwhile, Nida’s four young children are living with the Thaxtons in Hollydale using Social Security checks to help pay the bills, said Maritza Odell, Nida’s birth mother, who now lives in North Carolina but comes to California frequently.
Nida’s wife, Naily, recently got a part-time job to make ends meet, Odell said.
Odell gave up her baby to raised by the Thaxtons after Nida’s father and she split up when she was a young woman.
“It was hard,” she said. “But seeing all these people out here supporting my son’s memory shows me it was the right thing to do.”
– caption: Fullerton Councilman Bruce Whitaker, center, stands with protestors Saturday at Imperial Highway and Parmount Boulevard.