SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — An employee with the city of San Jose who regularly volunteered to aid the homeless has been identified as one of the three people injured in the fatal stabbing at Grace Baptist Church Sunday night, city officials confirmed Tuesday.
The City of San José released a statement acknowledging that one of the victims who sustained serious injuries in the stabbing at the church on November 22 was a San Jose employee.
San Jose police are continuing their investigation into the stabbing that happened on Sunday night that left two people dead and hospitalized three more stabbing victims.
“The City employee is an active member of the community and was volunteering at the church that night,” the press statement read. “They are a valued member of our City family and we have been in touch with them since the attack.”
The employee, who was identified as Nguyen Pham on a GoFundMe page launched to collect money to support him in the wake of his injury, “has worked tirelessly to support vulnerable communities in San Jose and beyond,” according to the information on the page.
The GoFundMe campaign has raised over $21,000 of a stated goal of $30,000 since being launched Monday afternoon.
Published reports have identified the suspect in the stabbing as 32-year-old Fernando Jesus Lopez.
The San Jose Mercury News reported that Lopez had a criminal history that included repeated domestic violence arrests that suggested issues with substance abuse. Lopez had his jail release for a pending domestic-violence charge revoked in late August after he failed to make a mandatory court appearance.
San Jose police said that officers responded to a report of a stabbing at Grace Baptist Church on the 400 block of East San Fernando Street at approximately 7:54 p.m. Sunday night.
That night, police noted on social media that the church had opened its doors to provide shelter for the homeless prior to the fatal incident.
“No church services were being conducted at the time of the stabbing,” San Jose police tweeted. “Unhoused individuals were brought into the church to get them out of the cold.”
When they arrived, officers located five victims both inside and outside the church suffering from at least one stab wound each. One adult male victim was declared dead at the scene. A second adult victim, a female, was transported to a local hospital where she succumbed to her injuries.
“All of us in City Hall wish our teammate and the others who were hurt a full recovery,” the statement from the city read. “We offer our deepest condolences for the two individuals that passed and their families.”
“Nguyen’s a very caring guy, he does things out of a place of love, and he’s also the guy who when you need something done, he’ll get it done,” said Huy Tran.
Tran is a friend, who says Pham was often seen distributing food and supplies to homeless people in San Jose. To many – he’s a community hero.
“I think right now where he’s at is he doesn’t need all this for him. He’s going to try to find ways to make sure he helps the other victims and he helps the other people in need as well,” said Tran.
On Monday, police said the motive and circumstances surrounding the incident were under investigation.
“We’re still investigating a motive, etcetera,” said San Jose Police Sgt. Christian Camarillo. “Talking to the detectives this morning, they had about 30 witnesses they had to interview and get all their statements.”
Camarillo added, “We had a very motivated individual that was able to stab five people. This isn’t like a shooting. To stab somebody, you have to get up close and personal.”
Police said the quick response time is the likely reason the three surviving victims were in serious but stable condition.
“There were some brave men and women here last night who went in, along with paramedics, our San Jose Fire personnel, and more than likely probably saved the other three people who are alive this morning,” said Camarillo.
The two fatal stabbing victims are the 40th and 41st homicides in San Jose in 2020, police said. According to the San Jose Mercury News, San Jose has soared past the 10-year average of 37 homicides. In 2012, the city recorded 46 homicides with 47 occurring in 2016, which were the city’s highest totals in about 30 years.
Police are asking anyone with information to contact Detective Sergeant Lewis #3161 or Detective Meeker #3272 of the San Jose Police Department’s Homicide unit at (408) 277-5283.
People can also leave anonymous tips by calling the Crime Stoppers hotline at (408) 947-7867.