For release on April 5, 2019
David Boyd, Deputy District Attorney
DA REPORT: SAN JOSE POLICE LAWFULLY SHOT, KILLED FLEEING FELON
TRYING TO ESCAPE IN STOLEN CAR
San Jose Police officers lawfully shot and killed a driver, who, after a nine-mile high-speed chase, tried to smash a stolen car out of a phalanx of police cars, endangering the officers and the community, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office has determined.
Officers believed the stolen car driven by Jennifer Vazquez, 24, had just been involved with a drive-by shooting.
Prosecutor David Boyd’s 62-page public report concludes: “Nothing Jennifer Vazquez did on December 25, 2018, dispelled the reasonable suspicion that she was exactly who the police were looking for, an armed fleeing felon who had just shot two people and may have shot a third two hours earlier. Even after the crash, Vazquez’s behavior revealed to a reasonable observer that she was not going to be arrested – no matter what law enforcement would do – and that she was going to use the car in order to escape with no regard for the safety of others.”
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 when they or others are faced with imminent danger or are trying to prevent a dangerous felon from escaping and hurting members of the community.
In the early morning of December 25, 2018, police were investigating a shooting of two people at Story Road and Clemence Avenue. While the call was unfolding, a bystander told an officer that the vehicle involved in the shooting was leaving the area, yelling, “That way! They shot!” pointing southbound on Clemence Avenue. Looking in the direction indicated by the witness, the officer saw a Toyota Camry turning from Clemence Avenue onto Owsley Avenue. Police followed the Camry and determined it was reported stolen. When they attempted to stop the car, the driver refused to yield and led police on a high-speed, nine-mile chase – at one point driving against traffic without the headlights on. During the chase, police were told that there was another shotgun shooting relatively close to the drive-by two hours before. The Camry finally crashed at Leigh and Fruitdale avenues and was quickly surrounded by police cars. Boxed in and ordered to get out of the car by armed officers, the driver refused to surrender. She attempted to smash her way out with the car.
When it looked as though the dangerous felon was about to escape and potentially strike an officer, four officers fired their service weapons multiple times, fatally wounding Vazquez. The incident was captured on body-worn cameras. It was only determined later that day the Camry was not involved in the drive-by shooting.
Police found burglary tools and methamphetamine in Vazquez’s clothing. An autopsy showed that she had methamphetamine and amphetamine in her blood. Vazquez, who had an active warrant for methamphetamine possession, was convicted of fleeing from police in a stolen car in 2014.
Passenger Linda Carmona-Bruno was also injured by police gunfire and suffered non-life threating injuries. The DA’s Office also found this use of force lawful.
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