Officer cleared in fatal shooting of mentally ill man
Prosecutors release bodycam footage, say cop involved was justifiably afraid
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.”