Man charged with attempted murder of officers
SAN JOSE >> A man who authorities allege was “stalking” police before opening fire on patrol officers during a traffic stop and later wounding another officer at a home standoff has been charged with four counts of attempted murder.
Luis Alberto Cantu, 37, of San Jose was charged Feb. 8 by the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office. Authorities confirmed that one of his aliases is Noe Orlando Mendoza, the name that San Jose police used to identify him at a news conference Feb. 7 about the shootings.
Cantu was arraigned on the charges Feb. 8 in a San Jose courtroom, but not before some momentary confusion about whether he was at the courthouse.
Judge Elizabeth Peterson read out loud in court the attempted murder charges, each of which is accompanied by allegations that he targeted a police officer, acted with premeditation, and used a 9 mm Glock-style, privately made firearm — which police described as an unserialized ghost gun — in the shooting.
One of the attempted murder charges also carries an allegation that he caused great bodily injury, which is connected to the officer who was wounded. The added allegations, if found true by a jury, expose Cantu to more years in prison.
Peterson also remanded Cantu back to the Santa Clara County Main Jail without bail, citing the “very violent nature of the charges in this case,” and saying that if he were to be released, “the public
at large would be in great danger.”
Cantu did not enter a plea, and Peterson ordered him to return to court April 3.
After the arraignment, District Attorney Jeff Rosen voiced relief that none of the targeted officers was killed and said that by trying to shoot them, Cantu was targeting “our whole community.”
“You may have many questions about this crime. Why did he try to gun down officers last Friday night? Some answers may come as this case moves forward,” Rosen said. “There is no good or rational answer.”
“Today, the officers are where they should be, alive,” Rosen added. “The defendant is where he should be right now, behind bars.”
San Jose Police Chief Anthony Mata said at the earlier news conference that investigators believe Cantu was following and looking for police officers to confront Feb. 3. Mata added that in the aftermath of the reported crime spree, which left one police officer headed to the hospital for a gunshot wound, Cantu “repeatedly asked after he was taken into custody if
he killed any officers.”
Police say surveillance footage and images captured by city-installed license plate-reading cameras show that around 8:15 Feb. 3, someone matching Cantu's description and driving a car later linked to him was seen parked near police headquarters on West Mission Street. About 20 minutes later, police say Cantu was parked near an SJPD substation at Mineta San Jose International Airport, and drove off as officers tried to contact him.
In at least one instance, Cantu and his vehicle were recorded following two patrol vehicles in the ensuing two hours.
Around 10:30 p.m., Mata said two patrol officers riding in the same vehicle stopped Cantu at a gas station near King and Story roads after he was seen driving erratically and running through a red light.
Police said after he stopped, Cantu immediately got out of his car and shot at the officers with a handgun, hitting their patrol SUV several times.
The officers, who were not hit, returned fire, hitting Cantu's car at least
half a dozen times as he sped away.
An ensuing investigation led to Cantu being identified as the shooting suspect, and police went to his home on Sinbad Avenue, about a mile northeast of the gas station. Around 1 a.m., police said Cantu showed up on foot and entered the home. Around 3 a.m., a contingent of officers — including the special-tactics MERGE unit — staged in front of the home, and called out to Cantu to come out and surrender.
Police said Cantu exited the house through a back entrance and hopped a fence into a neighboring yard, prompting an officer to throw a flash-bang grenade in the yard. Cantu then perched himself on a fence and opened fire at the assembled officers. One of the officers was hit by two bullets, one in his hip and the other in his protective vest.
Mata said the officers did not return fire; surveillance footage from the scene shows that after opening fire, Cantu appears to have dropped down the from the fence and out of view.
Soon after, Cantu surrendered and was detained by police.