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SJPD Chief: Officer Shot Man Who Had Disarmed Another Man Brandishing Gun During Restaurant Fight Chaos

SAN JOSE (CBS SF) -- San Jose Police Chief Anthony Mata provided additional details of an officer-involved shooting early Sunday morning that happened just minutes after another deadly shooting close by, describing how in the confusion a police officer shot a man who had disarmed the gunman.

Mata said the two shootings were among four separate incidents involving illegally-possessed firearms over the past weekend. In one, a man was found shot dead at South Fourth and East San Carlos streets at about 2:44 a.m. Sunday. A suspect was seen running toward the San Jose State University campus following the shooting and has not been found. Police consider it an isolated incident and no continuing threat to the community.

Less than a half-hour after the shooting and while officers were still processing the scene, people were seen fleeing from La Victoria Taqueria several hundred feet from the homicide scene, reporting a disturbance and a person with a gun.

At a press conference Tuesday, Mata said responding officers to the taqueria were aware a homicide had occurred nearby and the shooter had fled on foot. The officers also believed there was an active shooting scenario unfolding at the taqueria and that it may have involved the shooter from the homicide at South Fourth and East San Carlos streets.

Raw Video: San Jose Police Chief Update On Officer-Involved Shooting At Restaurant

Later on, it was determined that neither was the case. At the time, however, officers arrived to a chaotic scene at the taqueria following a fight between two groups of people, with one person holding a gun. Surveillance images from the restaurant showed the person who originally brandished the weapon had it taken away during a struggle and the gun changed hands more than once, Mata said.

"This is obviously a very chaotic situation. A large fight erupts in a very crowded restaurant. One individual brings out a firearm. You can see all the other restaurant patrons flee," said Assistant Police Chief Paul Joseph.

Restaurant surveillance video showed a violent, chaotic and bruising brawl inside the restaurant between two groups of men who punch, kick and wrestle with each other.

Man with gun inside La Victoria Taqueria
Man with gun inside La Victoria Taqueria (SJPD)

"The fight moved out of the front door and onto the landing where one individual was holding the handgun," said Mata. "Officers gave repeated commands to drop the gun; however, the individual does not drop the gun and one officer shot more than one time, striking the individual."

It was only after viewing the restaurant surveillance video of the fight that investigators were able to determine who originally had brandished the gun, and that the officer who opened fire was reacting as the situation presented itself, said Mata.

"The officer knew that a homicide with a firearm had just occurred and that the suspect with the firearm had fled and could be in the immediate area," said Mata. "The officer knew that less than a block away from the homicide a man with a gun inside a crowded restaurant engaged in the fight and that panicked customers were running out reporting what was occurring. The officer knew that the person coming out of the restaurant was holding a gun and pointed it at others. The officer knew that in that individual holding the gun did not drop it when commands were clearly given to him. The officer did not know who brought the gun to the restaurant.

The person who originally brought the gun to the restaurant and brandished it during the fight was arrested for being a felon in possession of a privately-made firearm, said Mata. The person shot by the officer will not face any charges.

The police department released the surveillance video from inside the restaurant and Mata said officer body-worn camera video would be released as part of a community briefing video at a later date, which would include the name of the officer involved in the shooting.

Mata said there are several videos from the restaurant security cameras, bystander cell phones and the officer's body-camera that appear to show the injured man's back turned to officers when he was shot. It will ultimately be up to the district attorney's office to determine if the shooting was lawful.

"Keep in mind that videos from different angles or perspectives can show different views. The investigation will bear out where the injuries are," said Joseph.

Mata also said three out of the four incidents of illegally-possessed guns over the weekend involved so-called "ghost guns" and said the department was rolling out a new program to curb the use of private-made, untraceable firearms. The Cash For Ghost Guns would refocus funding for future gun buyback programs toward paying individuals for tips that lead to the seizure of ghost guns.

Sunday's homicide victim's identity was still pending the notification of his family. It was the city's fourth homicide of 2022.

Devin Fehely contributed to this report.


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