General Crime

*Jan 16, Death Penalty Taken Off The Table For 2001 Murder Of Officer Fontana

*Jan 16, San Jose Police Trying To Get Man Out Of Gas Station After Shooting At Police
*Jan 16, Coroner To Determine If Man Died Of Shots Or Self-Inflicted Wound
*Jan 16, Salinas Report Sixth Gang-Related Homicide In Seven Days

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The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office will withdraw its request for the death penalty in the case of accused cop killer DeShawn Campbell following a judge’s ruling that the man is mentally retarded. The family of slain San Jose police Officer Jeffrey Fontana, who was fatally shot in October 2001 during a routine traffic stop on Calle Almaden in south San Jose’s Almaden neighborhood, joined District Attorney Dolores Carr today to announce the decision to take the death penalty off the table.”Withdrawing the death penalty in this case is an extremely difficult decision for me, for this office, to make,” Carr said. “I continue to believe that the death penalty is an appropriate penalty in certain cases, including this one.”Prosecutors instead will seek a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. Family members, prosecutors and police Chief Rob Davis each reiterated their disappointment with Judge Diane Northway’s recent decision to change her August 2007 ruling that Campbell is not mentally retarded.The Court of Appeals in January 2008 requested Northway consider reopening the hearing with new evidence after a witness gave incorrect testimony about Campbell during the first hearing. Northway changed her ruling Dec. 19, 2008, after hearing from a defense expert and ruled that Campbell is mentally retarded.The expert, according to Carr, relied on a standardized test but used the test it in a way that should have rendered the results inconclusive. “We therefore respectfully, but vehemently, disagree with Judge Northway’s decision because we believe that it was profoundly unscientific, and wrong,” Carr said.Carr blamed the specifics of a law that prohibits the death penalty in cases where a defendant is mentally retarded. She said the law provides for no standardized method for proving whether a person is mentally retarded, leaving the decision up to judges presented with various forms of contradictory evidence.Because an appeal on the ruling would delay the seven-year-old case even further and would likely be fruitless, the case will go to trial Tuesday, prosecutor Lane Liroff said. “Obviously we’re disappointed,” Davis said of the “ultimate justice” begin taken off the table. He said there will be outreach to the Police Department to help employees understand the case and continue with their work professionally. Fontana’s younger brother, Greg Fontana, said his family is also disappointed but has come to terms with the case.”We’re comfortable with life without the possibility of parole,” Greg Fontana said. “We would’ve loved the death penalty because it would have been the ultimate justice, and Jeff, being a police officer, he deserves that justice.” Greg Fontana described his brother as an athletic, funny and charming man who growing up knew he wanted to be a cop. “(Jeff) was a great cop, and unfortunately he died doing what he loved,” he said.

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A man who allegedly shot at a police officer has possibly barricaded himself inside a gas station in San Jose this morning and police were trying to get him to come out just before 11 a.m., a police lieutenant said.An officer was checking a suspicious vehicle around 9:30 a.m. at McLaughlin Avenue and Capitol Expressway because it might be stolen and had been in some sort of collision, Lt. Rick Weger said. The officer somehow came into a struggle with the driver, who got a hold of the officer’s gun and shot at the officer, Weger said. The officer was not hit but suffered minor injuries during the struggle.Another officer arrived, shot at the suspect and may have hit him, Weger said.The suspect fled into the gas station and authorities as of 10:45 a.m. were trying to negotiate with him to come out and provide medical assistance if necessary, he said.Police believe the suspect is inside the station alone.

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San Jose police have not determined if a man who exchanged gunfire with police and then barricaded himself inside a San Jose gas station today died from officer-fired gunshots or a self-inflicted gunshot wound, police Lt. Rich Weger said. The incident began this morning when an officer was checking a suspicious vehicle around 9:15 a.m. at Tuers Road and Capitol Expressway. The vehicle was suspected to have been stolen and involved in some sort of collision, Weger said.As the officer was checking the vehicle, the driver somehow took the officer’s gun and fired the weapon, Weger said. The officer was not hit but suffered minor injuries during the struggle. Still in possession of the officer’s gun, the suspect hopped into the vehicle and drove around the corner to the intersection of McLaughlin Avenue and Capitol Expressway, Weger said.A second arriving officer responded, and the suspect allegedly fired on that officer, who was not hit.The officer returned fire and believes he hit the suspect at least once, Weger said.The suspect then barricaded himself in a USA Gasoline station at the northwest corner of the intersection.Officers and a SWAT team responded, attempting to make contact with the presumably injured and armed man.Then, shortly after 3 p.m., police units were able to enter into the gas station and discovered the suspect fatally shot.Police also recovered the officer’s handgun, Weger said. Weger said it is unclear who fired the fatal shot, and the coroner will ultimately determine the cause of death, Weger said.Capitol Expressway between Senter Road and U.S. Highway 101 was shut down after the incident, Weger said. Eastbound Capitol Expressway had been opened by about 4:15 p.m. and there was no estimated time of opening for the westbound side.

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Salinas police today are investigating the sixth gang-related fatal shooting carried out in the city in seven days.Thursday’s killing took place around 8:45 p.m. during a family gathering at a home in the 700 block of Las Casitas Drive, police said.A man dressed in dark clothing walked into the home’s front yard, pulled out a handgun and started firing, according to police.Salinas resident Gabriel Amezcua, 30, suffered several gunshot wounds and died at a nearby hospital, police said.A 29-year-old woman suffered gunshot wounds to her legs and was transported to a nearby hospital, where she is expected to recover. The suspected shooter ran south on Ranchero Drive after firing the gun and he has not been located.The most recent killing and the other five carried out since early in the morning on Jan. 9 are all being investigated as gang-related homicides. Several attempted homicides have also been reported. Police have worked to increase officer concentration on the streets, but both law enforcement and city officials are saying the rivalry  between the Nortenos and Surenos gangs cannot be solved by the Police Department alone. “I think unfortunately this pattern of violence, a gang culture, just has simply taken root in our community, and it’s gone on for generations, and I think there’s an element within our community that think it’s an acceptable lifestyle,” Mayor Dennis Donohue said Tuesday, when he and police Chief Daniel Ortega held a news conference about the rash of violence. While police are not confirming whether the shootings are retaliatory strikes from the rival gangs, police Sgt. Chris Lane said there have been victims on each side.No suspects have been arrested in connection with the killings, police said.

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