For release on September 25, 2013
Supervising Deputy District Attorney
SUNNYVALE OFFICER LAWFULLY SHOT VIOLENT MAN ARMED WITH HAMMER
A Sunnyvale public safety officer used legally justified force when he fatally shot a man who had just physically assaulted his elderly mother and was rushing at the officer with a ball-peen hammer raised over his head, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office has concluded.
Before the fatal confrontation last year, the intoxicated Jason White had yelled out: “I’ll take on the f-ng police any day, any time.” Public Safety Officer Thomas Sprayberry already knew White from a jaywalking incident a year before when White warned that the next time he encountered police he would “lose it.”
The District Attorney’s Office investigates all fatal law enforcement encounters to determine if the lethal force was legal. By law, officers are allowed to use deadly force where there is a reasonable need to protect themselves or others from an apparent and imminent threat of death or great bodily injury.
In a 34-page report detailing the incident and decision, Supervising Deputy District Attorney Brian Welch determined that the officer believed that the immediate use of deadly force was necessary to defend himself against the onrushing and armed 36-year-old transient.
District Attorney Jeff Rosen said: “Sometimes, when faced with imminent danger to themselves and to others, officers must stop the threat using the most serious force. These often split-second decisions are diligently reviewed by my Office to make sure they are lawful. In this case, Officer Sprayberry’s actions were legal and justified.”
On the night of December 15, 2012, the erratically-behaving and intoxicated man began attacking his 68-year-old mother in her Sunnyvale home, repeatedly punching her in the head. As she ran from her home, screaming for help, a neighbor called 911. The officer arrived less than five minutes later as White chased his mother through the neighborhood, armed with a hammer. White advanced on the officer “at full tilt,” yelling, with the hammer over his head. The officer backed up, while repeatedly warning White to stop, loud warnings confirmed by witnesses. Officer Sprayberry then fired his weapon seven times, striking White fatally with three bullets.