A San Jose police officer was justified in the 2013 fatal shooting of a man who stabbed three people while high on drugs, crashed into a patrol car and refused to surrender, Santa Clara County prosecutors announced today. The case concerned 42-year-old Albert Vasquez, who was shot seven times in San Jose by police Officer Kevin Peters after Vasquez turned toward Peters while holding a knife on Thanksgiving Day in 2013, Supervising Deputy District Attorney Brian Welsh said.
At about 10:30 a.m., that day, Vasquez, after a night of using illegal drugs, stabbed two women and a man at 2126 Alexian Drive near Alum Rock Avenue in East San Jose, then fled on foot and used a knife to steal a Toyota minivan from a driver, prosecutors said. Peters, who was dispatched to the area about the stabbings and heard on his radio about the carjacked minivan, saw the Toyota speed by him driven by a man matching the description of the stabbing suspect, according to the district attorney’s office. The officer followed the Toyota to Kirk Glen Drive, a cul-de-sac, and was convinced after seeing the driver that he was the suspect in the stabbings and carjacking, prosecutors said.
Peters blocked the exit of the cul-de-sac with his patrol car but Vasquez refused to give up, drove the Toyota into Peters’ patrol car, crashed into a nearby pickup truck and then kept accelerating and bouncing off of the pickup, according to the district attorney’s office. The officer then drew his pistol, walked around the minivan, saw Vasquez armed with a knife and ordered him to get out of the car, but Vasquez did not comply, prosecutors said. The suspect was smacking his lips and staring blankly ahead, which Peters determined from his police training indicated Vasquez was high on PCP, according to prosecutors.
Peters, who was the only officer on the scene, then saw Vasquez turn to him while holding the knife up. Fearing that the suspect would harm others and convinced that forms of non-lethal force such as a Taser stun gun or pepper spray would not subdue him, Peters fired three shots into the driver’s side of the minivan toward Vasquez, authorities said. The officer told investigators he was not sure if the shots had struck Vasquez, who showed no reaction and was leaning out of the driver’s window. A witness reported hearing Peters yell, “Drop the knife” before the officer fired five more shots at Vasquez, according to the district attorney’s office.
The suspect then slumped forward and the Toyota accelerated, veered away and crashed into a tree. Vasquez was pronounced dead at the scene. The results of an autopsy showed that Vasquez was under the influence of PCP and tested positive for an elevated level of methamphetamine, prosecutors said. Peters, who correctly figured that Vasquez was under the influence of PCP, which can cause violent behavior and hallucinations, was justified in shooting Vasquez “to prevent the escape of a violent and fleeing felon,” Welch concluded.
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