SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — A report from the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office says San Jose police officers lawfully shot and killed a man last year who drove a stolen car into a police sergeant, seriously injuring him.
The incident happened on May 4, 2019, when an employee of the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office had her car stolen as it was idling unattended in the driveway of her San Jose home.
The car was found about an hour later parked in the carport of an apartment complex, with 24-year-old Efren Esquivel inside. As seen on officers’ body-worn cameras, officers attempted multiple times to have Esquivel get on the ground, but after climbing out of the car and standing on top of it, he got back inside the car and attempted to drive through the police vehicles blocking him in.
After yelling, “You’re gonna have to shoot me” or “You’re gonna have to kill me,” Esquivel drove directly into San Jose Police Sgt. James Mason, knocking him down, dragging him into another vehicle and pinning him as Mason and other officers opened fire on Esquivel.
An autopsy determined that Esquivel was intoxicated with “a near-toxic” level of methamphetamines. Sgt. Mason suffered a broken shoulder and other injuries.
“When he drove at Sergeant (James) Mason at high speed, the officers had no other recourse to save Sergeant Mason than to discharge their firearms,” prosecutor Rob Baker wrote in the 30-page report. “Had they not fired, the vehicle likely would not have come to a stop, allowing Esquivel to inflict greater injury to Sergeant Mason and possibly hit additional officers as he attempted to escape.”
The report said it was not known why Esquivel decided to try to escape while he was surrounded by police officers.
“Unfortunately, why Esquivel refused to surrender after being caught behind the wheel of the car he just stole hours earlier will never be known with certainty,” the report stated. “One thing, however, is clear – the San Jose police officers gave Esquivel multiple opportunities [to] surrender without the use of force.”
The District Attorney’s Office said it investigates all fatal law enforcement encounters to determine if the lethal force was legal, and said by law, officers may use deadly force when they or others are faced with imminent danger.