SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — San Jose police have confirmed the names of four officers who were involved in a fatal police shooting on Christmas Day after pursuing the wrong vehicle in a suspected shooting.
Jennifer Vasquez, 24, was shot at least 10 times before she died, according to her family and friends. Police say she was driving a stolen car and tried to use the vehicle as a weapon to ram officers when they began shooting.
Officers Marco Mercado, Eliseo Anaya, Mitchell Stimson and Mark Koska were involved in the shooting, police spokeswoman Gina Tepoorten confirmed Thursday. Nonprofit Silicon Valley De-Bug obtained the names this week through a request under state Senate Bill 1421, a police transparency law which went into effect in January.
Tepoorten said three of the officers, Anaya, Stimson and Koska, have been with the department less than two years, while Mercado has been a San Jose police officer for six and a half years.
Police records show that Mercado was involved in another officer-involved shooting in October 2016. Jose Valle, of SV De-Bug, said Mercado is one of seven “repeat offender” officers involved in 60 police shootings in San Jose since 2009, according to the SB 1421 request.
The Christmas Day pursuit began shortly after 2:09 a.m. on Dec. 25 in the area of Clemence Avenue and Story Road, where police responded to gunshots and found two adults suffering from at least one gunshot wound each. Shell casings were also found at the scene.
Officers began following Vasquez’s car at the direction of witnesses, and pursued her briefly before she crashed into a chain-link fence at the intersection of Fruitdale and Leigh avenues.
Police said she drove back and forth in an effort to free her vehicle from the fence, then used the vehicle as a weapon to ram into officers. The four officers then shot Vasquez and injured her passenger, 28-year-old Linda Bueno of San Jose. Bueno was hospitalized and later booked into Santa Clara County Jail on a misdemeanor bench warrant.
The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, police internal affairs and the Independent Police Auditor are currently investigating the shooting, and would typically release the officer’s names at the end of the process.
Vasquez’s parents, Maria Elena Vasquez and Jose De Jesus Ramos, sought help from SV De-Bug to learn more information about their daughter’s death. The nonprofit filed the information request in early January, and said police are releasing the details one piece at a time.
Lidia Jimenez, a Midtown Family Services caseworker who mentored Vasquez, held a news conference Tuesday to call attention to the lack of information surrounding the woman’s death.
She said District Attorney Jeffrey Rosen listened to them attentively after the shooting, but has not shared any significant updates with the family. Jimenez and Vasquez’s friends surrounded her parents as they called for the district attorney’s office to prosecute the officers who shot Vasquez.
“I met with the family of Jennifer Vasquez and two family advocates a few weeks ago,” Rosen said in a statement. “I gave them my condolences and assured them that we would carefully consider all the evidence before making our decision. That process is ongoing.”
Investigations into police shootings can take several months, if not years, and Jimenez said the District Attorney’s Office must streamline the process for the sake of grieving parents.
“Families shouldn’t have to wait that long, it’s sad,” Jimenez said. “It shouldn’t take a year—it shouldn’t take two years.”
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