Report concludes investigation into shooting death of suspect on SJSU campus
The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office has concluded that a San Jose State University police officer last year lawfully shot and killed a man who was rushing at a fellow officer with a saw blade. During the incident on the edge of campus, the two officers had already ordered the erratically-acting Antonio Guzman-Lopez to drop his weapon, and fired a Taser at him to no effect.
In a 46-page report, prosecutor Matthew Braker determined that the veteran officer shot the 38-year old armed and attacking man while fearing for the safety of his fellow officer.
The District Attorney’s Office investigates all fatal law enforcement encounters to determine if the lethal force was legal. By law, officers are allowed to use deadly force when faced with imminent danger.
The incident began just before 11 a.m. on Feb. 21, 2014, when two campus police officers – Sgt. Michael Santos and Officer Frits Van Der Hoek – responded to calls about a man near campus acting bizarrely and making stabbing motions in the air with a large blade.
Both officers – Van der Hoek wearing an activated body camera which captured the incident – saw the man walking along South 8th Street. The officers and eyewitnesses described the man as armed and acting strangely, as though he was mentally unstable or intoxicated. Ignoring police commands, Guzman-Lopez began walking toward Van Der Hoek. The officer fired his Taser. With the blade brandished in his right hand, Guzman-Lopez then ran at the officer. Fearing for his life, Van der Hoek yelled for his fellow officer to “Shoot him.” Santos fired twice, both bullets striking Guzman fatally in the back. One of the bullets went through the suspect and into the window of a nearby sorority house. No one there was injured.
Santos told investigators that he considered Guzman a “huge” threat to Van Der Hoek’s life. He said: “I thought for sure this guy was about to stab him….” He told investigators that he felt that he should have fired his weapon sooner in order to protect the fellow officer.
An autopsy concluded that Guzman had methamphetamine in his system when he was killed. Guzman had a criminal record that included domestic violence, resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer.
As the non-shooting officer in the incident was in the past employed as a legal clerk in the District Attorney’s Office, the D.A.’s Office referred the case to the Attorney General’s Office to ensure public trust. The AG’s office concluded that no independent review was needed. Despite this ruling, the D.A.’s Office referred the case to the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office for an additional and independent review. That office concurred that the officer acted lawfully. That report is included in this release with the Santa Clara District Attorney’s report and a letter from the Attorney General regarding this matter sent along with this release.