The police officer who shot and killed a gun-wielding man last October was not at fault, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office announced today. In a 24-page report made public today, Supervising Deputy District Attorney Brian Welch concluded that Officer Jeff Harwell used justified force when he shot 23-year-old San Jose University student Ricardo Moreno on Oct. 10, 2011.
His actions were an appropriate reaction to “an apparent and immediate threat of bodily injury or death to himself or Officer (George) Constantin,” who was with him at the time, Welch wrote in the report. At about 5:30 a.m. on Oct. 10, 2011, police responded to reports of a man carrying a handgun near the intersection of Hillsdale Avenue and Narvaez Avenue. Based on police accounts of the incident, Welch wrote that the officers encountered Moreno, who was wearing only bloody shorts, and had a “wide eyed, blank stare” that led Constantin to believe Moreno was on drugs.
An autopsy confirmed that Moreno had an extremely high level of cocaine in his system, according to the report. The officers told Moreno to put down his weapon. Moreno initially did so, but then picked the gun up again, primed it to fire and aimed it at Officer Constantin. Officer Harwell then fired his gun multiple times at Moreno, who died at the scene. Earlier that night, Moreno had shot his brother’s car multiple times and waved his gun at passing drivers, according to the report.
The investigation of the incident also showed that the .45 caliber pistol Moreno had with him the night he died had been used at the scene of the downtown homicide of San Jose State University students Eric Otokawa, 21, of San Jose and Kristina Pandula, 20, of Sunnyvale on Oct. 8, 2011, Welch said. The investigation concluded that Moreno was responsible for the murders, according to the report.
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