Chief: Suspect who wounded Calif. cop, shot at others was 'on quest to kill' police
While the suspect's motives remain under investigation, Chief Anthony Mata characterized the actions as part of a scheme to "ambush" officers
By Robert Salonga
Bay Area News Group
SAN JOSE, Calif. — A man suspected of shooting and wounding a San Jose police officer over this past weekend, hours after he opened fire at other officers who had stopped his car, was apparently following police officers in the hours prior to those confrontations, authorities said Tuesday.
San Jose Police Chief Anthony Mata said that while the suspect’s motives remain under investigation, he characterized the actions as part of a scheme to “ambush” officers Friday night.
“I am eternally grateful we did not lose any officers in these senseless attacks,” Mata said at a Tuesday news conference at police headquarters.
Noe Orlando Mendoza, 37, was arrested early Saturday at his home on Sinbad Avenue in East San Jose after shooting a SWAT officer who was part of a team tasked with taking him into custody. Mendoza reportedly surrendered soon after his final volley of gunshots.
According to a San Jose police review of surveillance footage from Friday night, Mendoza and his car appeared to have been seen parked near police headquarters. Later, he reportedly was seen parked near an SJPD substation at Mineta San Jose International Airport, but drove away as officers there tried to contact him.
About two hours later, just before 10:30 p.m., police say Mendoza was stopped by two patrol officers near a gas station at the intersection of Story and King roads. Mata said he had been driving erratically and ran a red light, capturing the officer’s attention.
Mata said Mendoza immediately got out of his car and began shooting at the officers, hitting the patrol vehicle several times, including twice in the windshield.
“Both officers were inches away from being struck by the gunfire,” Mata said.
The officers returned fire, hitting Mendoza’s car at least a half-dozen times before he sped away. With the help of city-installed license-plate reading cameras, police identified the car and eventually tracked it to Mendoza’s home on Sinbad Avenue, which is about a mile northeast of the first shooting.
While monitoring the home, police said that around 1 a.m., Mendoza showed up on foot and entered the dwelling. Around 3 a.m., a contingent of officers — including the special-tactics MERGE unit — staged in front of the home, and called out to Mendoza to come out and surrender.
Instead, Mendoza 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 to disorient him, Mata said. But that reportedly prompted Mendoza to perch himself on a fence and open 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.
Police previously stated that the officer was wounded in his leg; that information was revised Tuesday. Mata reiterated earlier police accounts that the officers did not return fire, and while the chief did not elaborate on why, he said the officers remained disciplined and suggested they did not have cause to shoot at Mendoza.
A review of some of the surveillance footage from the scene shows that after opening fire, Mendoza dropped down the from the fence and out of view. That likely meant that officers in front of the home did not have direct line of sight on Mendoza, and therefore lacked a clear target.
Soon after, Mendoza surrendered and was detained by police.
The wounded officer was taken to a hospital and is currently at home recovering, Mata said. The two officers who shot at Mendoza at the gas station — a six-year veteran who was field training the second officer, a first-year rookie — were placed on paid administrative leave in accordance with county protocols following a police shooting.
Mata said Mendoza’s questions for investigators after his arrest offered the best glimpse into what he was trying to do that night.
“Mendoza repeatedly asked after he was taken into custody if he killed any officers,” he said.
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