SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) – The Santa Clara District Attorney’s office released San Jose police body camera footage Friday of a deadly Christmas Day shooting that the office ruled was lawful.
“Under the facts…the use of deadly force…was a lawful response to an apparent armed fleeing felon who reasonably appeared to pose a great threat to public safety,” Deputy District Attorney David Boyd wrote in his report of the shooting.
Jennifer Vasquez, who was believed to be involved in two attempted homicides, led police on a high speed chase before crashing her car into an elementary school fence then trying to flee from officers who had surrounded her car.
The body camera video shows officers repeatedly giving Vasquez, 24, verbal commands to stay in the car or she would be shot.
Vasquez, who was in a stolen white Camry, is seen driving back and forth to try and free herself from a hole in the fence.
An officer is then heard yelling,”You’re going to get shot, get out of the vehicle…I’m going to shoot you if you don’t stop.”
Vasquez then reverses inches from a patrol car behind her before driving forward between the fence and a pole.
The officer then says,”If she comes at me I’m going to shoot her.”
Seconds later the video shows Vasquez revving her engine as she drives toward a patrol car in front of her before multiple shots are fired from officers.
Vasquez died at the scene, but her passenger survived.
Not everyone agrees with the deputy district attorney’s ruling, including Rosie Chavez of Silicon Valley De-Bug, which is an advocacy group on community issues.
“I understand they have a job, but at the same time I believe that in her situation there could have been some deescalation,” said Chavez.
According to the 62-page report, however, one of the officers explains that he did consider and at least attempt to deescalate the situation.
The report said the officer asked for a rubber projectile launcher “to break out the windows and try to communicate” with Vasquez that he also thought “could be used to incapacitate her enough so they could approach and turn off the car.”
The officer also believed “blocking the Camry would deescalate the situation,” and that “he did contemplate a retreat to a safer position…but…if he were to let the car go, he believed the suspects were dangerous to the police and public.”
Officers said they had no other reason than to believe Vasquez and her passenger were armed and dangerous. Minutes before she was shot, a bystander told an officer that there had been a drive-by shooting and pointed at Vasquez’s Camry as being the shooter. As police attempted to initiate a traffic stop they said they were told there was another shotgun shooting in close proximity to the drive-by shooting two hours prior.
Vasquez led police on a nine-mile high-speed chase before crashing her car at Leigh and Fruitdale Avenues.
“I just feel like everybody has a right to live and be prosecuted,” Chavez said.
Police later learned that Vasquez was not involved in the attempted murders, which has angered her family and community members who have described the incident as a case of mistaken identity. She did not have any weapons in her car, but police said they did find methamphetamine and a burglary tool.
However, soon after the shooting, Chief Eddie Garcia held a news conference standing by his officers’ actions.
“No they weren’t the suspects in the shooting, but also had they not been in a stolen vehicle, had they not led officers on a high speed pursuit, had they not tried to ram officers’ cars, we wouldn’t be here today,” Garcia said in December.