District Attorney Releases Video of Santa Clara Police Shooting that Left a Mentally Ill Man Dead

Authorities concluded Thursday that Santa Clara police acted lawfully when they fatally shot a mentally ill man who turned out to be unarmed.

Officer Colin Stewart shot 24-year-old Jesus Geney-Montes on March 9, after Geney-Montes stabbed himself in the chest several times and reportedly told police he had a gun and would shoot them. The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, which investigates police shootings, determined that Stewart was justified in killing Geney-Montes because he feared for his own safety.

In an unusual step, the DA also released Stewart’s body camera footage, which documents the final 11 minutes of the standoff.

“Seeing Geney-Montes charging towards him and believing his life was in danger, Officer Stewart chose to defend himself by discharging his weapon,” prosecutor Carolyn Powell  wrote in a 53-page report on the incident. “Under the facts, circumstances and applicable law in this matter, Officer Colin Stewart’s use of force was in response to an objectively reasonable belief that he was facing an immediate threat of great bodily injury or death.”

Fulvio Cajina, an attorney representing the victim’s family in a wrongful death suit against the city of Santa Clara, says he came away with the opposite conclusion after watching the video.

“Our reaction is still the same,” he told San Jose Inside in a phone call Thursday. “This was an unjustified police shooting.”

Cajina says the video proves Geney-Montes was shirtless, unarmed and trying to evade officers, not charge at them, as Powell claims. There were no civilian bystanders at risk, the attorney adds, and there was no reason why officers couldn’t have taken “all the time in the world” to de-escalate the confrontation.

In the body-cam footage, cops repeatedly tell Geney-Montes they’re not going to shoot him while aiming their guns at him.

“They’re not going to shoot you, Jesus,” a cop shouts over a fence separating Geney-Montes from the officers.

Over the next several minutes, he adds:

“Nobody’s going to kill you.”

“Jesus, I want to get you some help, especially for that chest wound, my man.”

“They’re not going to shoot you. Focus here, Jesus.”

“We’re not going to shoot you, bro.”

At 9:45 in the clip, Geney-Montes—who reportedly had his hand in his shorts pocket for most of the standoff—bolts away from police. Stewart, gun aimed ahead of him, chases him from the opposite side of the fence. The cop then leaps over a wall and continues his pursuit on a dirt trail as Geney-Montes turns for cover around an embankment.

Stewart stops at a closed gate and turns toward Geney-Montes, who’s on the other side of a chain-linked fence. Geney-Montes turns and Stewart fires four rounds at Geney-Montes, who then crumpled to the ground.

“Shit,” Stewart says, lowering his gun as other officers jog up to the scene, where one of them found a bloodied knife in the bushes.

The DA released the clip on YouTube, with a disclaimer: “This video is graphic and viewer discretion is advised. The District Attorney’s Office tries to balance the values of privacy and transparency. Finding the right balance is important to maintain and build public trust in the criminal justice system. We are releasing this video because it was relevant to our decision.”

To Cajina, the video reinforces the family’s claim that Geney-Montes was wrongfully killed. Police had several opportunities to avoid a fatal outcome, he says.

The DA’s report notes that Santa Clara police had already been to the family’s Deborah Drive home four other times that day. Each time, Geney-Montes locked himself in his bedroom, threatened his stepdad and himself, and told cops he had a gun and would shoot them if they broke in. Each time, police determined that no crime had been committed and that it was safer to let the family work things out.

At 5pm, Geney-Montes’ mother called police once more, reporting that her son had knifed himself in the chest and fled from the bedroom window. When police arrived, they found him standing atop an embankment by the family’s apartment complex.

The rest of the encounter is caught on video. Below is Powell’s description of events in the DA report, as well as video of the shooting.

“Geney-Montes turned toward Ofc Steward and came back at him,” the report states. “At that time, Ofc Stewart was cornered with a cement wall behind him and a locked chain link fence to his left and the defendant coming toward him from the front. Ofc Stewart fired four shots to stop Geney-Montes’ advancement toward him. All four rounds hit Geney-Montes. Despite life-saving measures, Geney-Montes was pronounced dead at the scene.”

Jennifer Wadsworth is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Newspaper. Email tips to [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

19 Comments

  1. One takeaway I get from this is it seems like police need a new instruction manual on working with the mentally ill. Repeatedly the suspect is getting instructions by up to 6 officers at a time.

    It would have been better to send a hostage negotiator in (even though there was no hostages) because they’re trained to talk people down. Every single officer yelling at him had a firearm pointed at him. This makes it hard to establish trust with the suspect.

    It also brings to question, should police even be dealing with mentally ill? It just seems like a job that was dumped on them.

    Just got to the part where the suspect was actually shot. He had his back to the officer running away. Going back and reading the article..

    >“Seeing Geney-Montes charging towards him and believing his life was in danger, Officer Stewart chose to defend himself by discharging his weapon,”

    There was a chain link fence separating the officer and the suspect. He could not have “Charged” towards him.

    The right thing to have done here would have been to back off, instead of chasing the suspect over the fence. There’s really no place for him to run with the helicopter in the sky. He was hiding under an overpass, there’s really no other place he could have run to.

    If we’re going to start arresting people for self mutilation, I know a few extreme piercing shops you can park in front of.

    • Mr. Cortese,

      Helicopter? Did you say that? If the suspect decides to kill someone on the ground, what is the helicopter pilot going to do other than watch? The safest thing to do would have been for the police not to respond at all. That way, the subject can’t lunge at them or otherwise force them into a situation where they might have to use force.Let the mentally ill person completely decompensate, commit his murder-suicide, then have the police surround the scene with crime scene tape, take a report, and try not to hurt anyone’s feelings or step in anyone’s flower bed.

      It’s difficult to determine much of anything from that footage. The camera does not track the officer’s eyes; it doesn’t see what he sees at any given moment; the camera has no depth perception; it doesn’t interpret the officer’s perception based on his training and experience; and it doesn’t account for the effects of the explosive hormonal and stress-chemical dump that changes an officer’s psychological, cognitive, and physical performance under that kind of pressure. If you don’t like the way the officer handled it, either don’t call or go handle it yourself, or don’t do anything at all and hope the problem solves itself before anyone gets hurt.. The footage does show that often, not even the problem itself is readily apparent, much less the “perfect solution”.

      I won’t insult you by pretending to take you seriously.

      • > If the suspect decides to kill someone on the ground

        Fairly certain they had the perimeter shut down, you can hear one of the officers telling the man “Traffic is all backed up”

        >That way, the subject can’t lunge at them

        He couldn’t lunge at them anyways, he was on the other side of a fence 15′ away

        You sound like a hillary supporter coming up with any asinine excuse for the officer. They knew he had a knife, there was many other options available to them. They could have doused him with pepper spray (I suspect your next comment will be “Pepper spray doesn’t affect Latinos!”)

        • Mr. Cortese,
          I will give you as much pepper spray as you would like. I will stand as far away from you as you like. Give me a heavy knife of my choice. Now, would you bet your life that your pepper spray will stop me before you get stabbed? Pepper spray works, just not all the time and not on everyone and there’s no way of knowing if the person you are spraying at the time is one who is susceptible to it or not. The mentally ill, the drugged and the drunk are particularly resistant to the effects of pepper spray although it does work quite well on sober cops in a gymnasium.

          I don’t claim to be some sort of tough guy. I’m not but for some reason, tear gas, mace and pepper spray have never really worked all that well on me. I tear up, my nose gets runny but I just get angry. I have no idea why. Now, if instead of pepper spray, you were to pull out a divorce attorney, well, that’s another story entirely. I would definitely run from that.

          • > I will give you as much pepper spray as you would like. I will stand as far away from you as you like. Give me a heavy knife of my choice. Now, would you bet your life that your pepper spray will stop me before you get stabbed?

            Is that a real offer? Do I get to have a fence between us? Do I get to have 10 men of high physical stature and a helicopter overhead with me? I mean, if you’re going to test my metal in this situation, give me the same situation the SCPD officer had, body armor and baton included. You have to wear nothing but fluorescent pink shorts and sandles. Give me every single tool he had available to him and let me choose how we do battle.. Does SCPD have a water cannon? Can I call the SCFD in as a makeshift water cannon? Are police allowed to use tranquilizer darts?

            Just name the time and place if you really want to do this. We’ll invite the SJI staff to watch and document who the winner is. No amount of bravado is going to help you win in a fight like this.

            BTW I am very familiar with the 21′ rule, but not everyone is Dan Insanto. This dead man certainly wasn’t.

        • Mr. Cortese, I apologize for any tone of false bravado that may have come across. That’s not what I was trying to convey. It sounds however as if you believe the situation would have been better handled by a zoo keeper than the police. In that case, next time, call the Humane Society. You can have all those tools you mentioned, and set up the situation however you would like as long as I can sue you no matter what you do and criticize whatever decision you make and, what the hell, maybe I can even get lucky and stab you in the arm with a rusty butter knife while I’m at it. It’s worth the risk since no responsibility for it would accrue to me.

          And in all seriousness, the fact that you know who Dan Inosanto is puts you , seriously, about 10 light years ahead of most people who comment on these sorts of incidents.

          • Inosanto is woven into the fabric of Guardian Angel history. A lot of them are into martial arts, Sliwa even got to train with him for a bit and they were good friends. I know our regional director has met him and thinks really highly of him. We all get links to various training videos, this is one of them.

  2. Officer in fear for his life kills two unarmed babies, one pregnant women and two 85 year old men and women in wheel chairs. No crime. When your tired of this Bu– Sh– let me know stupids!!!!!!

  3. It’s the fault of American shyster lawyers. If the cop didn’t shoot the guy and he went on to kill or injure someone else, then the city, the police department, maybe the officer himself could get sued.

  4. As I have repetedly said, the mentally ill need to be institutionalized not running around on the streets. This guy has already stabbed himself after several visits by the PD that same day. The police are very concerned about this guy’s condition and what he might have in his pockets and repetedly ask him to remove his hands from his pockets, as he had claimed to have a gun earlier in the day.

    As a police officer your first duty is not getting yourself or some innocent person injured or killed.

    This could have been avoided had we a responsible policy of containing the mentally ill rather than letting them run wild in the street like this is the zombie nation or something.

    Shyster lawyers, the ACLU, and nutball policies of the late 60’s and early 70’s followed by absolute neglect. The results are thousand of people killed around the US, I could point to the Manson family, Jim Jones massacre, John Lennon, just to name a few. It’s not bad policing that’s killing these people it’s bad mental health policy.

    This was not the best example of a good shooting as there is no such thing,but is the result insanity left unchecked.

    • Empty, I often agree with your observations, but a bit uneasy about this post. Most mentally ill pose no risk to themselves or others when taking prescribed meds.

      We’ve had two recent incidents where area PD failed to intervene at the onset. Both had serious consequences. A man in Santa Clara is dead. A few weeks ago, SJPD decided not to intervene in a similar incident in the Burbank neighborhood. That resulted in a neighbors home invasion, her car theft, and high speed chase spanning multiple counties. It would appear that both were avoidable had the police secured them on a psychiatric hold (PC 5150).

      It’s easy to Monday morning quarterback, and I’m in no position to second guess either situation. But remain deeply troubled that the prevention aspect was not addressed by the DA. Link for DA report https://gallery.mailchimp.com/67b7e799d5a6eb9ebdd19ac47/files/2972073a-f4a3-4578-bac4-e1fb10d61ad6/OIS_Report_Geney_Montes_3_9_2017.pdf Chronology begins on page 4.

  5. Show me your hands over and over is a poor verbal command. In my opinion he should be told to drop the weapon. I saw an officer with an AR but I did not see a less lethal 40mm or shotgun bean bag gun? Why jump the wall and follow hi m to a dead end? Time was on their side. Forced confrontations dont work out so well. You cannot create your own exigency. Just a few of my takeaways… Hitting him with 3 or more 40mm would have knocked the sails out of him earlier on… Oh well more fuel for the haters… Cops are their own worst enemy sometimes…

    • “3 or more 40mm…”? Can’t speak to SCPD’s training, but mine is two shots to center mass to stop a threat, then assess. Rinse, wash, repeat if not stopped. Note ‘stop a threat’ – not kill. And someone running away is generally not a threat unless suspected of having a gun. I’m assuming SCPD uses hollow-points. “3 or more” from a 40mm would result in very large wound channels and high risk of a fatality.

      “Cops…own worst enemies”. Maybe, but IMO most responsibility falls on command staff. Generally cops are lousy shots. NYPD stats show only about 14% hit their targets with handguns. And the typical shooting distance is under 18 feet. Only command staff can ensure sufficient training time to hone and maintain skills in life-threatening situations.

      I appreciate J.S. Robillard & your comments. Typically, fact based, well reasoned, and minimal snark.

      • Sooner or later, someone would have to approach our crazy little friend there. Is it better to do it sooner, while he is in the mental state he was in, or later, when his mental state possibly deteriorates even further and he becomes an enraged bullet sponge. Who knows? And therein lies the problem. Will he get better or worse the longer he goes unrestrained. If he just overdosed on his anti-psychotic meds, he is a ticking time bomb and the longer he waits to be controlled, the greater the likelihood of a negative drug reaction that could be fatal. Will the stress of being pelted like a carnival clown by 40mm rubber baseballs stress our little friend to the point of cardiac arrest or cerebral hemorrhage? Who knows? I’m trying to be civil here but time is NEVER on your side in these situations. The sooner the mental person is controlled, the safer for him and for those in his area of threat. It’s unfortunate this worked out the way it did but THERE IS NO PERFECT SOLUTION! Anyone who believes otherwise should go back to Oz!

  6. The officer was in no apparent danger & shooting this sick man was the despicable act of a coward. This trigger happy gunslinger is totally unsuited for police work & now the city that provided him with a badge & a gun is going to be sued (& rightfully so) for millions. He should be fired immediately & should he entertain any ideas about a wrongful termination suit,his own body camera footage speaks for itself. He shot the mentally disturbed man four times when one shot was one too many. You could conclude that the only reason that he didn’t fire any more shots was because his gun wasn’t fully loaded. Every other officer involved in this debacle should be investigated for their part in this incident & be reprimanded,suspended or terminated if found in any way culpably negligent. The California Attorney General should order an independent investigation of this tragedy & the entire Santa Clara Police Department. It’s no wonder why football players kneel & minorities protest when these shooting by law enforcement of unarmed people have become such an everyday occurrence. “Shit” Officer Stewart said after shooting the unarmed man four times,”Shit” indeed ! It’s obvious that the “Shit” he was referring to must be himself & the “Shit” that’s about to hit the fan in Santa Clara ! Colin Kaepernick must have been clairvoyant as he certainly picked the right location to take a knee in protest of police brutality toward minorities in our country. Is it any wonder why so many people have so much contempt for the police ? Was it manslaughter or pre-meditated murder ? That’s a question only a jury can decide !