SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — The San Jose Police Department has backtracked on its account of Monday’s fatal officer shooting of a murder suspect, saying the suspect was fleeing police when they opened fire and not reaching for his waistband as originally stated. The acknowledgment has led to the former head of the department’s independent auditor to file a complaint over the shooting.

The suspect, 40-year-old Richard Jacquez, was one of three suspects in the killing of a man earlier this month at an office park.

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On Monday, police officers chased after Jacquez who they feared was armed and on the verge of killing a witness who could have implicated him.

At the time, police spokesman Sgt. Enrique Garcia said an officer opened fire on Jacquez as he reached for his waistband. No weapon was found on Jacquez, who had been running toward a house on Kirkhaven Court  near Stoneyhaven Way in south San Jose.

The next day, Sgt. Garcia acknowledged the account of Jacquez reaching for his waistband was “not accurate.”

“(Jacquez) had his back turned and was about the reach the house when officers opened fire,” said Garcia.

However, Garcia noted the officer made the decision to open fire based on the knowledge Jacquez had already murdered one person, was planning to murder another, was believed to be armed with an assault weapon and was heading toward a house and a possible hostage situation.

“The officer fired at the suspect once he did not comply with officers’ commands,” said Garcia. “The suspect turned around and the officer fired again. Eventually the suspect fell and he was pronounced dead at the scene.”

Garcia said it was unclear whether Jacquez was hit with the initial shot and said the coroner would determine whether he had been shot in the back.

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The retired head of San Jose’s Independent Police Auditor, LaDoris Cordell, on Wednesday filed a complaint against the department over the shooting.

Cordell told the San Jose Mercury News she questions why the false claim was made to begin with. “In communities of color, this is the concern, that the standard response is that ‘he made a furtive movement and went for something in the waist,'” she told the Mercury News. “I can tell you, I’m getting emails from people in San Jose saying ‘How are we going to trust the police department?’ You don’t build trust in this fashion.”

Silicon Valley NAACP President Jethro Moore told KPIX 5 the shifting police narrative is deeply troubling, and despite the new account, the officer did not have to use deadly force. “Someone running from you is not a threat,” said Moore. “I would call that an unjustified shooting.”

A Santa Clara University law professor Edward Steinman said the circumstances of the shooting and evolving story raise red flags.”I think we should be troubled anything someone is killed by police,” said Steinman. “Because obviously, the police’s job is not to go out and kill people, it’s to protect public safety.”

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said officers often face life-or-death situations in which they are forced to make split-second decisions. “I am confident that our officers do everything they can to avoid being a situation where they might have to pull the trigger when facing a violent suspect.”

Both the police department and the district attorney’s office have promised a complete investigation into the shooting.

The day before Jacquez was shot dead, another suspect in the office park killing was fatally shot by police. Witnesses in that case corroborated police account that the suspect, 29-year-old Matthew Castillo, was armed and reaching for his weapon when he was shot dead.

A third, unidentified suspect is still at large and police have publicly urged him to surrender.


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Carlos E. Castañeda is Senior Editor, News & Social Media for CBS San Francisco and a San Francisco native. You can follow him on Twitter or send him an email.