Protect and Survive: Officer-Involved Shootings on the Rise

District Attorney Jeff Rosen started issuing public reports about all officer-involved shootings in Santa Clara County after taking office in 2011.

District Attorney Jeff Rosen started issuing public reports about all officer-involved shootings in Santa Clara County after taking office in 2011.

Criticism of lethal split-second decisions with the benefit of hindsight can be dismissed as Monday Morning Quarterbacking. If a person has never been a trained police officer, and has never been in a potential life-or-death situation, the theory goes, they have no business saying whether or not an officer took the correct action.

But all law enforcement agencies—whether it is their Internal Affairs division or, say, the District Attorney’s office—at some point have someone internally play the role of MMQB, reviewing the circumstances of officer-involved shootings and deciding if the level of force was appropriate. Until recently, those reviews never saw the light of day in Santa Clara County.

After being elected in 2010, District Attorney Jeff Rosen wasted little time in changing office protocol to release detailed public reports any time someone is shot by a local law enforcement agency. The goal, he says, was to explain to the public why an officer was being charged or cleared of charges. Every officer investigated in the 20 reports made available to San Jose Inside, dating back to March 2010, has been cleared of charges. And rightfully so, Rosen says.

“If you look at the reports of the folks who have been shot and killed by officers, it’s not a situation where somebody made a bad left turn and was pulled over; the officer is writing them a ticket and during the course of that somehow the officer ends up shooting them. I haven’t seen a situation like that,” Rosen says. “It tends to be situations where a person is either in the course of committing another crime, or is mentally ill, or high on drugs, or a gang member with hostility towards police. Those are more the situations I’ve seen.” He also blames the proliferation of guns.

The vast majority of the reports back up Rosen’s assessment. In September 2011, Paul Castillo kidnapped and murdered a woman before trying to run over two San Jose police officers with a stolen car. Five other people accused of carjacking between September 2011 and November 2013 tried to run over officers or flee the scene, likely to commit more crimes. Two were shot dead. Varun Kumar, killed in October 2011, had a history of leading police chases and had no intent of going back to prison when police boxed in the black Ford Taurus he stole. He played bumper cars and almost clipped an officer until three shots—one to the back—stopped him. That was after he’d already been Tasered and pistol-whipped a few times. Robin Fillie, a 31-year-old drug addict and her boyfriend, Samuel Rose, tried to run over an officer after stealing a car in Almaden. Fillie got lit up with multiple gun shot wounds. She was operating the vehicle under the influence of drugs, and the assumption that the officer could only shoot her “one time, not multiple times!" Now she knows.

The number of rounds fired in officer-involved shootings is a closely guarded secret by local law enforcement. Neither SJPD nor the Sheriff’s Office were willing to provide such information, citing a government code exemption. But through an inspection of DA reports, Metro has found that since 2010 the average South Bay police shooting involves at least 10.2 shots from a police weapon, with a high of 29 in a drug bust gone bad—Juan Ruelas was shot 29 times by six officers and found to be unarmed. Other instances, while more justified, suggest there is no guarantee anyone is tracking how many times a trigger is pulled.

In October 2011, Shareef Allman went on a killing spree at the Lehigh Quarry in Cupertino, murdering three co-workers and shooting seven more before setting off a countywide manhunt. Law enforcement tracked him down in Sunnyvale, and officers fired off at least 26 bullets before Allman turned his own gun on himself. When asked for clarification on the number of rounds fired in this instance and others, the DA was surprised to learn it had not come up with the exact total for some of its reports.

But sometimes it only takes one shot, such as the case of Valente Galindo, who was killed in the bedroom of his East San Jose home on Dec. 15, 2011. A suspected gang member was chased by police into the house and tossed a gun into a dark room, where Galindo and a woman were resting. Officer Lee Tassio says that Galindo, against his orders, picked up the gun and raised it, which is when Tassio fired one shot into Galindo’s chest. Pictures from the scene show the gun ended up under the bed next to a scarf, a woman’s shoe and a can of Four Loko.

The DA ruled the shooting justified, but knowing no prints or any DNA evidence from Galindo was found on the gun, the city settled a lawsuit by his family out of court for $900,000. City attorneys have justified the payouts despite arguing nothing was done incorrect.

“All of these shootings were within policy. That is a decision made by the department,” says retired judge LaDoris Cordell, San Jose’s independent police auditor. “For some of these shootings there have been substantial payouts to the victims and their family members. If the shootings are within policy, why is the city paying?”

There’s also the case of Rochaund Barris, who on Oct. 3, 2012, trespassed on the Diridon Station train tracks in San Jose. With meth in his system, distraught over a breakup, Barris ignored orders to stop from transit cop Irfan Zaidi, who also was serving as a deputy for the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office. The DA’s report on the incident says Barris threw a rock and hit Zaidi in the leg. The suspect then meandered off into the trainyard, throwing a steel nail at a train window. Apparently this is when Zaidi felt the threat had been escalated, and he drew his weapon.

The officer confronted Barris and ordered him to put down another rock he held menacingly in his hand, but Barris didn’t comply. According to the report, Zaidi fired one shot at Barris’ hip and “watched his reaction to see if it would change.” It didn’t, so Zaidi shot him three more times.

One could MMQB how much of a threat Barris really presented with a rock, but the law is clear: Danger—similar to the shooting of Gonzales in the hotel stairwell—need only be perceived.

“A person resorting to deadly force in self-defense need only react to what is reasonably, rather than actually, apparent,” the DA notes in many of its OIS reports. “In other words, he need not be absolutely correct. But if wrong in assessing the threat, the conclusion must have been reasonable under the circumstances. There does not have to be actual danger necessary to justify the self-defense. If someone is confronted by the appearance of a danger, which arouses in his mind, as a reasonable person, an honest conviction and fear that he is about to suffer bodily injury, and if a reasonable person in a like situation, and knowing the same facts, would be justified in believing himself in like danger, that person has a right to self-defense whether such danger is real or merely apparent.”

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Josh Koehn is the managing editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @Josh_Koehn.

29 Comments

    • Wow, josh you and SJI have hit rock bottom with this article. If a criminal kills another person and then confronts police and points a weapon at officers what do you expect. I can give you a dozen examples when an officer is put in a deadly situation and had to act with deadly force.

      San Jose Police is moving up in shootings ( and city homicides) because they are being shot at and assualted more thanks to Chuck and Sam due to measure B. Criminals know there is no police force so they are running free to commit more crimes which result in confrontations with police which turn deadly.

      This should read : Josh Koehn is the news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Newspaper (and a member of the Mercury News)

      Who hate the ” Who use to be one of the best police department s in the country”

      • So explain how did that guy who killed 11 people in a movie theatre and had weapons and bombs end up taken alive? No excessive or deadly force used?
        Yet a 13 year old in santa Rosa was shot multiple times and he didnt kill anyone!
        Animals aren’t even killed with as many bullets as officers put into human beings!
        Cops need to be held accountable. ..they make a choice to kill rather than save a life! Those are choices grown adults make…yet try and teach children about wise choices being positive?
        We need people who care in government positions to make changes to rebuild, restore trust and safety for all!

    • JOSH AKA SJ MERCURY NEWS, SAD YOU EVEN POST THIS TRASH AND LET CINQUE POST THIS. I THINK YOU WANT THE VIOLENT PROTEST TO OCCUR SO YOU Have something to print.

  1. According to publicly available newspaper accounts, Castillo shot someone in a San Jose gas station, then kidnapped an old lady and shot her dead execution style. Allman took a semiautomatic weapon and killed several people at the Cupertino cement plant before getting into an armed standoff with the police. If the suggestion is that police have a pattern of engaging in foul play and using excessive force, at least two of the examples cited in this article’s picture gallery do not support that hypothesis. Those guys were known maniacs when they confronted the police. The people second-guessing the police in this article do not have to get into armed standoffs with maniacs as part of their jobs. If they did, they would s**** their pants or get killed or both.

  2. LaDoris, the faux Independent Auditor like to trumpet that she’s a retired Judge… But apparently she doesn’t grasp the chasm of difference between civil and criminal law- beyond a reasonable doubt versus preponderance of evidence. That is why civil cases are settled, regardless of Duty Manual policies or Supreme Court decisions. It’s sad that she and the local media intentionally misinform the public with articles such as this. Josh, the NBA and several others imply that police are supposed to “Protect and Serve”… Maybe you should research where that comes from. Is it a legal standard? A mission statement? Is it a policy? No, it’s a motto written on LAPD police cars and because of Hollywood, people seem to think its a justification for anything they don’t like the police doing- imagined or real. I guess the police should just be like Robocop and follow a prime directive given by whomever happens to be in their 15 minutes of media spotlight.

  3. Josh,

    While I do believe this is one of the better pieces you have written in recent times, I don’t understand the timing nor the message. Call me dense, but you went in a few complete circles here and ended with Judge Cordell’s most prized pet project, putting cameras on cops, and I can’t pinpoint what you were trying to get at.

    I do take issue with some of the previously mentioned examples (Paul Ray Castillo, Shareef Allman), but most of all I take huge issue with the addition of Jonathan Wilbanks’ photo being included with those on the first page. Wilbanks not only murdered an innocent person (after committing multiple armed robberies), he tried to murder a San Jose police officer and was very narrowly thwarted by the officer. Wilbanks should not be alive, plain and simple. To use his photo in any capacity, knowing what he did (along with Castillo) to illustrate your story is classless.

    As a follow up to this article Josh, you may consider the famed Hollywood shootout, where the officers were outgunned by the two bank robbers due to archaic policies and political assumptions governing law enforcement. Lastly, consider this fact – numerous municipal police agencies in the bay area have an AR-15 in every single patrol car, even our state level police who mostly focus on vehicle code enforcement carry them in nearly every patrol car. Yet, there is outrage when certain police departments receive AR-15’s from the government? Why is this?

  4. When society allows a limited thinker to believe she is highly intelligent, you get:

    “All of these shootings were within policy. That is a decision made by the department… For some of these shootings there have been substantial payouts to the victims and their family members. If the shootings are within policy, why is the city paying?”

    — To adjudge a shooting as within policy it is only necessary to consider the reasonableness of an action against written guidelines. This is something police departments do well. But the action taken by an officer(s) is only one-half of a shooting incident, the second half being the reaction, an element far too arbitrary and unpredictable to be governed by hard and fast rules (especially for a government cowering in fear of its ignorant and uncivilized masses). Would Ms. Cordell advise leaders in Ferguson, Missouri to announce, when it is inevitably revealed that the shooting of Michael Brown was within policy, that the city considers the matter closed for further discussion? I think not, and Ms. Cordell, it seems, doesn’t think at all.

    “Why wouldn’t you want to wear them unless you’re not following the rules?” Cordell says. “If you’re behaving, you want the cameras.”

    — It’s laughable that a former judge who spent a good deal of her time crafting “justice” within the isolated confines of her chamber — out of reach of the jurors and general public, would equate police reluctance to being constantly monitored with the intention to break the rules. Perhaps what’s needed is for her to set an example by having the conversations in her office and on her phones recorded and uploaded (for public inspection) daily? After all, if she and her staff are 100% objective and fair, and if her “clients” are telling the truth, why, to use her reasoning, wouldn’t they want to be monitored? After all, the IPA has demonstrated itself to have considerable effect (mostly negative) on the reputation of its police department, so it can’t be said that what goes on in there isn’t of interest to the public.

  5. I don’t know why SJPD shoots to kill. I know they have to protect themselves and take many risks in their job. Not every individual needs to be shot, in some cases where the person is shooting at them, I can see them shooting. My son is in the above pictures. Thank God he survived. My son wasn’t the driver he was the passenger. When the cops shot they shot through the passengers window, if he didn’t duck down in time they probably would have killed him. The bullets grazed his thumb. What I don’t understand is why do SJPD shoot to kill and always get away with it.

    • Patricia,

      In Law Enforcement, officers are not trained to “shoot to kill”. That is a misnomer perpetuated by film and the media. Regarding incidents involving deadly force, officers are trained to eliminate/stop and overcome whatever deadly threat they are being presented with. What level of force that entails is based upon the facts & circumstances surrounding the incident and these facts and circumstances are largely based upon the officer’s level of training and experience.

      • If thats true…then how could someone be a threat when there back is turned?
        To act in fear is DANGEROUS for Society and our Children.
        Killing is about Power and Control!
        Yet people are blind or just have no compassion these are human beings and assume they deserved it…before getting the facts!
        Just the same for officer who gets killed…it was a job they chose and knew the danger, so when they die its just part of their job?
        WRONG! EVERY Life Matters…and the ones Left Behind like Children have to suffer these consequences!
        People need to Respect Lives Stolen and have Compassion for the families grieving. Badge or No Badge!

        • Laurie,

          I understand your emotions and while I agree with some of your sentiments, our perspectives are very different.

          Someone can be a threat when their back is turned in many different instances. Most law enforcement agencies have policies which permit deadly force when the facts and circumstances would lead an officer to believe the person poses an ongoing threat to the lives of not only the officer, but other officers and any member of the public.

          Here are a few examples of a person who would continue to pose a threat when their back is turned –

          Someone who just shot at you and has now turned away to take cover or retreat to a position of advantage.

          Someone holding an edged weapon (knife, saw, hatchet, etc) who turns their back to an officer and advances on another officer or member of the public in a threatening manner with that edged weapon.

          Someone holding a deadly weapon who intentionally turns their back (while disobeying lawful commands) and attempts to advance on an officer.

          Someone who has been part of an ongoing violent crime (or spree of crimes), is armed or believed to be armed (based on real facts), and makes a threatening movement toward an officer or member of the public while attempting to flee from capture.

          Unfortunately, Laurie, all of these situations are hypothetical. When force is used, deadly or otherwise, it is often during a rather chaotic event where everything is not black and white. The dynamics of the chaos are not predictable and human instincts become a strong determining factor when people are presented with the possibility of being gravely injured or possibly even killed.

    • Patricia, Steve is correct.

      Cops shoot for the largest part of the target…. the torso. They shoot to STOP. But in many cases they shoot too much.

      This is a problem cause by a lack of training.

  6. Jack Slade Here!

    SJPD is overloaded with people who lack skill and common sense. Poor education, poor training, poor supervision and leadership has resulted in everyone doing what they want with DA Rosen who rubber stamps the killings. He is afraid of them after the rigged drunk driving arrest of the San Jose city councilman. His office is loaded up with Retired SJPD people. It’s so toxic that the DA’s office tried to cover up one of their substance abusers let go by SJPD after she seriously injured a person in a drunk driving accident where she was spirited away and the two investigating officers fired. They were later rehired and one of them later resigned and was charged with child molestation. The Drunk ex SJPD then DA Investigator’s father was a LT. on SJPD and later in charge of the DA’s SJPD’s Investigators. The poor injured girl and mother in the aforementioned accident had to move into seclusion and the California Attorney General had to step in and prosecute the Drunk Driving. Now I know it sounds unbelievable but there are 72 such incidents of morally bankrupt criminal behavior by these thugs.

    Thank God for all the measures that have taken away their control over their outrageous Pensions. For that kind of money you should get top notch stable people.

  7. Looks like someone didn’t get all the facts straight before posting accusations.

    “Cupertino suspect died of self-inflicted gunshot, Santa Clara County coroner finds

    PeninsulaPress.com

    October 6, 2011

    UPDATE, Oct. 11, 3:45 p.m.: The Santa Clara County coroner’s office has concluded that Shareef Allman died of a self-inflicted gunshot to the temple, not from bullets fired by county sheriff’s deputies, the San Jose Mercury News reports.”

  8. Jack Slade Here FOOLS
    Now you have a revealed thug on SJPD who has broken bones using three from the ring style. One expose after another. Don’t you understand hiring psychologically ill people who want POWER OVER PEOPLE is an error in judgment. These people are sick and you can’t just look at them to determine it. You have hired child molesters, homosexuals and criminally inclined people just to fill squad cars. You will pay big judgments for these people who you have accumulated for 30 years. Drown Sam “The Licking v. San Jose scammer. Have you unloaded your Baseball Stadium parcel yet, scum.