San Jose cops, who fatally shot woman on Christmas Day, cleared of wrongdoing

Police thought believed she was the suspect in a drive-by shooting nearby.

April 06, 2019, 6:26 PM

Four San Jose, California, police officers, who fatally shot a 24-year-old woman they mistook for another driver on Christmas Day will not face prosecution, the district attorney's office said.

"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," according to a press release issued on Friday about the investigation conducted by Santa Clara District Attorney Jeffrey F. Rosen's office.

Rosen's office also released a graphic video from one of the police officer's body cameras, which marked the final moments of Jennifer Vazquez's life.

PHOTO: Jennifer Vasquez is pictured in this undated photo.
Jennifer Vasquez is pictured in this undated photo.
Vasquez Family

In the early hours of Christmas, 24-year-old Vazquez was speeding and driving erratically in a stolen white Toyota Camry that police believed had just been involved with a drive-by shooting, the report said. Vazquez had driven the wrong way and in the wrong lane on freeways and streets.

After the protracted chase, the car crashed and the 79 seconds to follow were captured on the body camera.

"Multiple officers, with their guns drawn, ordered the driver of the Camry to stop or they would shoot. The driver accelerated forward and backward 11 times," Deputy District Attorney David Boyd wrote the 62-page public report.

Vazquez then rammed into a marked police car with an officer standing on the other side. At this point, the four officers fired approximately 37 shots in about four seconds.

At the time of the shooting, "each officer believed that the driver of the Camry was directly involved in the earlier shooting," that she "may still have a firearm," and that she was "trying to escape, which if allowed, would present a significant threat to the public because of the previous shootings coupled with the dangerous driving," Boyd wrote.

“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,” Boyd wrote.

The car's passenger, Linda Carmona-Bruno, 28, suffered non-life threatening injuries, prosecutors said. "The DA’s Office also found this use of force lawful," according to the office's press release.

PHOTO: Jennifer Vasquez is pictured in this undated photo.
Jennifer Vasquez is pictured in this undated photo.
Vasquez Family

"It was only determined later that day the Camry was not involved in the drive-by shooting," according to the press release.

Lidia Jimenez, a family friend said that Vasquez's family was not ready to comment on the release of the report and the video.

"Its [sic] truly heartbreaking and deffinately [sic] not what any of us expected or want to see or hear," Jimenez wrote in a Facebook post late Friday. "This post is to encourage you who love Jenny to guard your heart. To ask you to pray for her family and don't allow your heart to become hardened by hate."

Prosecutors said that police found "burglary tools" and methamphetamine in Vazquez’s clothes. She had an active warrant for methamphetamine possession, and was convicted of fleeing from police in a stolen car in 2014. An autopsy revealed methamphetamine and amphetamine in her blood.

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