Of­fi­cer cleared in fa­tal shoot­ing of men­tally ill man

Pros­e­cu­tors re­lease body­cam footage, say cop in­volved was jus­ti­fi­ably afraid

The Mercury News Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - By Robert Sa­longa rsa­longa@ba­yare­anews­group.com

SANTACLARA » De­spon­dent and scream­ing about an imag­ined at­tacker, Je­sus Geney-Montes stood atop an em­bank­ment as po­lice of­fi­cers posted up sev­eral yards away be­hind the flimsy pro­tec­tion of a slat­ted chain-link fence.

The 24-year- old Mis­sion Col­lege stu­dent, bleed­ing from­mul­ti­ple self-in­flicted stab­wounds on his chest and neck, said re­peat­edly he wanted to “shoot my­self in the head,” prompt­ing of­fi­cers to plead, “No, don’t say that.”

But dur­ing that late- af­ter­noon en­counter March 9, Geney-Montes was even­tu­ally shot and killed by Of­fi­cer Colin Ste­wart, who pros­e­cu­tors de­clared Thurs­day had legally used deadly force.

The Santa Clara County Dis­trict At­tor­ney’s Of­fice re­leased a 10-minute ex­cerpt of Stew-

art’s body- cam­era footage, which of­fers an un­usu­ally vivid pic­ture of how the stand­off un­folded, start­ing with a pha­lanx of of­fi­cers with their guns trained on Geney-Montes while call­ing out re­peated as­sur­ances of his safety.

“Show me your hands right now, you’re not go­ing to die to­day,” one of­fi­cer said. An­other of­fi­cer joined the cho­rus: “No­body’s go­ing to shoot you, stay right there.”

Geney-Montes re­sponded with sui­ci­dal procla­ma­tions. “I’m go­ing to go in the (ex­ple­tive) house and I’mgonna shoot­my­self,” he said. “If you guys kill me, the world doesn’t end.”

It was only af­ter­ward that po­lice dis­cov­ered he was un­armed. But the Dis­trict At­tor­ney’s Of­fice con­tends Ste­wart was jus­ti­fi­ably afraid of what might oc­cur had Geney-Montes been al­lowed to roam­freely in the neigh­bor­hood given the ar­ray of vi­o­lent threats he had made.

“Rec­og­niz­ing the im­me­di­ate safety risk and want­ing to pre­vent Geney-Montes from harm­ing him or oth­ers, (Of­fi­cer) Ste­wart rea­son­ably be­lieved he had no other means to neu­tral­ize the threat than to fire his gun,” the Dis­trict At­tor­ney’s Of­fice said in its of­fi­cial re­port on the shoot­ing.

In the footage, a tense stand­off is shown be­tween a shirt­less Geney-Montes and sev­eral Santa Clara po­lice of­fi­cers, who for nearly nine min­utes are heard call­ing out to hi­mand try­ing to coax him into sur­ren­der­ing. The of­fi­cers had a par­tic­u­lar fo­cus on a hand in one of his pock­ets, which they feared was hold­ing a gun he had ref­er­enced in mak­ing ear­lier threats against his step­fa­ther and po­lice.

Geney- Montes’ fam­ily has pre­vi­ously chal­lenged the po­lice ac­count, and­filed a fed­eral civil-rights law­suit against the Santa Clara Po­lice Depart­ment.

“This was a fright­ened, un­armed, un­men­ac­ing kid who was shot need­lessly, that’s what I see in the video,” fam­ily at­tor­ney Ful­vio Ca­jina said af­ter hear­ing about the DA’s an­nounce­ment. “Just a scared young man. That’s all he was.”

Ac­cord­ing to po­lice, Geney-Montes was in the throes of a men­tal break­down that prompted five po­lice vis­its to his Deborah Drive apart­ment the day of the shoot­ing, dur­ing which he bar­ri­caded him­self in his bed­room. He re­port­edly told of­fi­cers “he had a gun and would shoot them if they came in,” pros­e­cu­tors said.

Dur­ing the first four vis­its, po­lice de­ter­mined his be­hav­ior did not rise to the level of an ar­restable of­fense. But the fifth po­lice call came with the re­port that he “had stabbed him­self” and fled from his bed­room win­dow.

Of­fi­cers caught up to Geney-Montes as he stood on an em­bank­ment along a trail be­hind the home a short dis­tance from the in­ter­sec­tion of Scott Boule­vard and Mon­roe Street.

One of­fi­cer tries to give re­as­sur­ance: “You’re hurt. I want to get you some help, OK? Can you take your hand out of your pocket, please?”

Through­out, GeneyMontes can be heard yelling about how some­one else had stabbed him. Of­fi­cers make sev­eral broad­casts to po­lice dis­patch­ers not­ing his hand was in his pocket.

The of­fi­cers’ con­cern au­di­bly grows as Geney-Montes starts recit­ing a count­down, which they pre­sumed might end with gun­fire.

“One, two … let me get in the (ex­ple­tive) house,” he said.

Soon af­ter, about 10min­utes into the video, GeneyMontes ran off, and Stew- art climbed a wall in pur­suit and caught up to him near a fence.

Ste­wart re­port­edly tried to use his Taser on GeneyMontes, and a sound con­sis­tent with a Taser could be heard on the video, but it was not ef­fec­tive. Shortly af­ter, he fired his weapon be­cause Geney- Montes “con­tin­ued to charge to­ward him,” pros­e­cu­tors said. There was no weapon on Geney-Montes, though po­lice say they found a bloody knife in the bushes along his route.

In the wake of his death, fam­ily mem­bers and friends said the en­counter did not need to be fa­tal. They de­scribed Geney-Montes as a “model stu­dent” at Wil­cox High who at­tended Mis­sion Col­lege. He strug­gled with men­tal ill­ness, but cap­ti­vated peo­ple with a megawatt smile and his self­less na­ture.

Ca­jina said the fam­ily is mov­ing for­ward with its law­suit.

“Po­lice were aware he had men­tal-health is­sues. They were at his home all day. There was no need to es­ca­late,” he said. “Time was on their side. No one’s life was at risk, in­clud­ing the po­lice. There was no need to kill this hu­man be­ing.”

But pros­e­cu­tors in­sist that given the in­for­ma­tion avail­able, of­fi­cers had to act swiftly.

“Based on the threats Geney-Mon­tes­made ear­lier to shoot po­lice and him­self, and the fact that he had al­ready stabbed him­self, at­tempted to stab Mr. Som­mers ( his step­fa­ther) and was seen flee­ing the home with a knife in his hand,” pros­e­cu­tors wrote in the Thurs­day re­port, “Of­fi­cer Ste­wart was rea­son­ably afraid Geney-Montes was armed and was go­ing to hurt him, other of­fi­cers, or civil­ians in the sur­round­ing com­plexes.”

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