SAN JOSE (BCN) — The wife of a man shot and killed by San Jose State University police last year spoke out Friday against a decision to not charge the officers involved in his death and is seeking a federal investigation into the matter.
The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office announced today that the campus police officer who shot and killed 38-year-old Antonio Guzman Lopez on Feb. 21, 2014 was abiding by the law and protecting a fellow officer.
Outside the county government center today, about 20 people including Laurie Valdez, Lopez’s wife, spoke against the district attorney’s decision.
“I’m totally hurt, angry and devastated by the fact that they (the district attorney’s office) claim that what the officers did was justified,” she said.
The District Attorney’s Office released a 46-page report Friday on its investigation into the officer-involved shooting, which said that university police were told that a man, later identified as Lopez, was waving a knife.
Sgt. Mike Santos and Officer Frits Van der Hoek had responded to South Eighth and East San Salvador streets just outside the campus that day and ordered Lopez to drop the knife, but he refused to follow their commands, according to the report.
Based on reports from officers and witnesses, Lopez was “acting strangely, as though he was mentally unstable or intoxicated,” according to prosecutors.
Van der Hoek used his Taser stun gun on Lopez, who was not affected by the shock, police said.
Santos shot Lopez twice in the back and one of the bullets went through his body and into a window at a nearby sorority house, where no one was injured, according to the report.
Lopez was transported to a hospital were he was later pronounced dead, the report said.
San Jose police investigated the shooting because it occurred within their jurisdiction and determined that Lopez was holding a foot-long saw blade that is similar to a jagged-edge tool used for cutting drywall.
An autopsy determined Lopez had methamphetamine in his system at the time of his death, prosecutors said.
Lopez had a criminal history that included domestic violence, resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer, according to district attorney’s officials.
Per protocol, the District Attorney’s Office reviews all officer-involved shootings, but it found Van der Hoek was previously a legal clerk with the office.
The case was referred to the state Attorney General’s Office, which determined an independent review was not needed, and the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office, which also concluded that the Santos was
acting lawfully by shooting at Lopez.
Valdez met with the district attorney’s office on the results of its investigation. She said she was able to listen to the 911 call that day and a still photo of the blade.
Richard Konda, executive director of the Asian Law Alliance, was in the meeting on Thursday with Valdez and District Attorney Jeff Rosen and watched the video captured by a body-worn camera on Van der Hoek.
“I didn’t see him (Lopez) make any aggressive move toward any person,” Konda said.
Valdez and community members will seek an independent investigation by the Department of Justice and review of the 46-page report to look for any inconsistencies, according to Raj Jayadev, director of Silicon Valley De-Bug.
Valdez will also be conducting her own investigation with her attorney, Jaime Leanos, by looking into the video on the officer’s body-worn camera once it is released and talking to potential witnesses, Jayadev said.
Leanos filed a federal civil lawsuit on behalf of Valdez and her son in January claiming negligence, wrongful death and violation of Lopez’s rights under the Fourth Amendment and 14th Amendment.
In a statement issued today by the university said, “The determination that San Jose State University police (UPD) acted lawfully and appropriately in a February 2014 shooting incident near campus brings closure to a 15-month investigation.”
“A pending civil lawsuit limits our ability to comment further at this time. But we will continue to keep all individuals affected by this incident in our thoughts,” according to the university.
The college also stated that the video of the incident on the body-worn camera is not being released.
“If there are formal requests for the video, we will consult with counsel and respond appropriately,” the statement said.
Valdez said the past 15 months since Lopez’s passing have been “a living hell.”
Lopez, an undocumented immigrant, had a son, 5-year-old Josiah, and was helping to raise Valdez’s daughter, 11-year-old Angelique.
Valdez said she told Rosen, “If you could walk in my shoes and feel my pain for a day, see what I see through my kids eyes and know who Antonio was, maybe then you would realize to do the right thing.
“I have lost total respect for the system,” she said.