SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — A 24-year-old woman allegedly driving a stolen car was shot and killed by police early Christmas morning in San Jose after they misidentified her as the suspect in a shooting.
Family and friends of San Jose resident Jennifer Vasquez called the shooting of her by officers an “unjustified murder.”
The chase began at 2:09 a.m. Tuesday in the area of Clemence Avenue and Story Road. Police responded to gunshots and found two adults suffering from at least one gunshot wound each, and shell casings from a handgun at the scene.
San Jose police Chief Eddie Garcia said during a news conference Thursday that witnesses pointed out a white Toyota Camry on southbound Clemence Avenue and said, “that way, they shot.” An officer saw the car going west on Owsley Avenue from Clemence and broadcast the description.
Officers began following Vasquez’s car and determined it was stolen after running the license plate through their system.
Police then pursued the car in a high-speed chase that lasted about seven minutes before Vasquez lost control of the car and crashed into a chain-link fence in the area of Fruitdale and Leigh avenues next to Sherman Oaks Elementary School.
Vasquez then allegedly drove backward and forward in an effort to remove the car from the fence, eventually positioning the vehicle to ram into a patrol car. Garcia said police officers were standing outside their cars and took her actions as a threat to their lives.
Four police officers began shooting at the driver and the passenger. Vasquez suffered fatal wounds and died at the scene. Garcia said police will not yet be releasing the amount of gunshots fired by officers.
“I stop short of the mistaken identity type of issue,” said Garcia. “No, they weren’t the suspects in the shooting. But also, had they not been in a stolen vehicle, had they not led police officers on a high speed pursuit, had they not tried to ram officers’ car, we wouldn’t be here today.”
The passenger, 28-year-old Linda Bueno of San Jose, was taken to a hospital with injuries. She was booked into Santa Clara County Jail on a misdemeanor bench warrant, and Garcia said officers determined Vasquez had previously been convicted for car theft and evading police.
Police did not locate a weapon or any evidence that Vasquez and Bueno were connected to the initial shooting, and they have not released any information about the correct suspects in the attempted murder. Garcia said the two victims of the initial shooting are alive.
“It was a coincidence and a tragedy,” Garcia said. “It would have turned out very differently if she hadn’t fled.”
Vasquez’s family members arranged a vigil for later Thursday afternoon at the intersection where she was shot and killed.
Her parents, Maria Elena and Jose, spoke with Garcia after the news conference. The family has created a donation page to raise money for funeral expenses at https://www.gofundme.com/jennifer-vasquez.
Vasquez’s parents called their daughter’s killing an “unjustified murder” and said police used excessive force when they shot her.
“It shouldn’t have happened the way it did, it the manner that it was resolved, even if it was a mistaken identity,” said Maria Elena Vasquez through an interpreter. “The way it was dealt with wasn’t right.”
Lidia J., a San Jose woman who described herself as a mentor to Vasquez, said she spent a lot of time advocating for others and was taking many steps to better herself, though she had a difficult past.
“I come from a rough background myself,” Lidia said. “I just feel Jenny’s opportunity to improve herself was taken away. Nobody deserves to die the way she did.”
With advisement from Silicon Valley De-bug, the family is asking the Police Department for six demands. The family wants Vasquez’s body released to them from law enforcement, for Garcia to report the amount of times she was shot and all video and audio footage from the shooting.
The demands also include a U.S. Department of Justice investigation, an independent investigation and for Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen to file charges against the officers involved.
Garcia said all four officers had their body-worn cameras activated, and footage will be released after an investigation by the district attorney’s office. The San Jose city attorney and the city’s Independent Police Auditor are also monitoring the case.
© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News Service contributed to this report.