San Jose police officers had mistaken Jennifer Vazquez for a shooting suspect. On Christmas morning in 2018, police officers were investigating a shooting that injured two people. A bystander at the crime scene pointed toward a white Toyota Camry driven by Vazquez and police followed. The officers chased the Camry, which had been reported stolen, for almost nine miles before Vazquez crashed into a chain link fence.
The car was stuck there. Vazquez rocked it back and forth trying to escape. “I’m going to shoot you if you don’t stop,” one officer yelled. When Vazquez freed the car and drove forward onto the sidewalk, hitting the door of a patrol car, four officers opened fire, firing 37 shots. Vazquez was killed and her passenger was wounded.
In a news conference following the shooting, San Jose police Chief Eddie Garcia called the case of mistaken identity, “a coincidence and a tragedy.” The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office declined to file criminal charges against the four officers on April 5.
“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,” prosecutor David Boyd wrote in his 62-page report.
She was the 234th person killed by police in the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area in the last decade. Like Vazquez’s passenger, thirty of them were unarmed.
In addition, there have been nine fatal shootings by police so far this year.
Ten years since Oscar Grant
On Jan. 1, 2019, Hundreds of people gathered at the Fruitvale BART station to mark the tenth anniversary of the death of Oscar Grant III, who was killed there by BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle exactly ten years earlier.
Grant was unarmed and lying face-down on the platform when he was shot. BART officers had stopped the train and removed Grant and several other people after a fight had broken out. Officer Anthony Pirone escalated the encounter, using racial slurs and pinning Grant on the platform before Mehserle shot him.
After cellphone video taken by bystanders in the train became public, news of the shooting was broadcast around the world and intense protests broke out in Oakland. Stores were vandalized, cars were burned, and police teargassed and fired rubber bullets at demonstrators. After nearly two weeks of protests, Mehserle was charged with murder. He was eventually convicted of the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter.
“He always said, ‘mom, I’m going to be famous one day,’ and I tell you that what he said has come to pass,” Grant’s mother, Wanda Johnson, recalled at the rally. “People know Oscar all over the country and outside the country.”
The people gathered there hoisted signs for several other people who had been killed by police since Grant, like Mario Romero, who was killed by Vallejo police officers while in a parked car on Sept. 2, 2012.
“I believe Oscar’s life was a catalyst to change our society,” Johnson said. “It brought awareness and it has caused us to think about, not just accept a person being killed, but to really examine what has happened and what took place.”
But Mehserle was the last officer in the Bay Area to face criminal charges for a shooting.
Black people killed disproportionately
National studies have found that Black and Hispanic people are more likely to be killed by police, and, according to data I’ve collected from news reports and public records requests over the last several years, this is true in the Bay Area as well. Black people killed by police are also more likely to be unarmed.
Of 206 cases where the race of the person killed was reported, police killed approximately the same number of white, Black and Hispanic suspects. According to the 2010 census, 42.4% of people in the Bay Area are non-Hispanic white, 23.5% are Hispanic and only 6.7% are Black.
So while only about 30% of Bay Area residents are Hispanic or Black, more than 60% of people shot and killed by police officers over the last decade are Hispanic or Black.
Race of people killed by police in the San Francisco Bay Area, 2009-2018
Number of people killed
Percent of total
Black people killed by police are also more likely to be unarmed. Of the Black people killed by police, 19% were unarmed, compared to 15.2% of Hispanic people and 12.9% of white people.
Black and Hispanic people were also more likely to be killed while armed with a vehicle, either while fleeing or driving at officers.
Some jurisdictions have mostly banned firing on suspects in moving vehicles as experts have determined it is unlikely to be effective at stopping the vehicle and can be dangerous to bystanders. New York City banned the practice in the 1970s and San Francisco banned it in 2016.
How people killed by police in the San Francisco Bay Area were armed
Including Grant, 30 unarmed people have been shot and killed by police in the Bay Area over the last decade. Eight were white, 10 were Hispanic and 12 were Black. Three were passengers in vehicles while the driver attempted to escape.
These are the 29 unarmed people killed by police in the Bay Area since Grant:
Nov. 14, 2009 – Leonard Bradley Jr. – San Pablo police Officers Ken White and Frank Perino shot and killed Bradley, 16, after he had allegedly carjacked a Monte Carlo from a couple in San Pablo and led police on a chase to Richmond. He crashed the car, ran from the crash scene, and allegedly turned toward the officers with his hands at his waistband, but he was not carrying a weapon.
May 28, 2010 – Michael Welch – Pinole police Officer Zachary Welch and Cpl. Chris Fodor shot and killed Welch, 20, after he removed a black object from his waistband which turned out to be a cellphone.
June 1, 2010 – Albert Mike Leday Jr. – Sonoma County Sheriff’s Sgt. Mark Fuston shot and killed Leday, 49. He led them on a pursuit and crashed in front of the Sonoma County Public Library. He then confronted deputies and allegedly reached for his waistband.
Nov. 8, 2010 – Derrick Jones – Oakland police Officers Eriberto Perez-Angeles and Omar Daza-Quiroz killed Jones, 37, after he ran away while they were questioning him in the barber shop he owned.
April 28, 2011 – Darly Podborny – Dublin police Sgt. Donna LaPerle killed Podborny, a 53-year-old homeless man, after Podborny assaulted her.
May 18, 2011 – Davon Jackson – Oakland police Officers Cesar Garcia and Ersie Joyner shot Jackson when he allegedly refused to raise his hands and reached toward the center console while seated in a car police had surrounded. Jackson was one of four people in the car police had determined were conspiring to commit a murder. Another suspect, John Sloan, ran from the car with a gun and was also killed by the officers.
April 23, 2012 – Robert McMullan – Fairfield police Officer Adam Ponce killed McMullan after going to his house to question him about following a teenage girl. McMullan allegedly fought with Ponce, who then shot him.
May 28, 2012 – Anton Barrett Sr. – Vallejo police Officer Sean Kenney shot and killed Barrett after a pursuit when Barrett pulled out his wallet.
Feb. 28, 2013 – Richard Shreckengaust – Sonoma County Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Parks shot and killed Shreckengaust after a pursuit into Guerneville. Shreckengaust crashed his car and Parks shot him when he didn’t come out.
March 2, 2013 – Ronald Aduddell – San Jose police Officers Ian Cooley and Adam Jenkins shot and killed Aduddell after a pursuit. They said he seemed to be reaching for a weapon.
March 3, 2013 – Shawn Joseph Jetmore Stoddard-Nunez – Hayward police Officer Manuel Troche shot Stoddard-Nunez while he was a passenger in a car during a traffic stop. The driver, Arthur Pakman, defied orders and rammed a police cruiser.
March 15, 2013 – Angelo D. Moreno – Napa County Sheriff’s St. Mike Hunter and Deputies Cullen Dodd, Bryan Schultz and Kenneth Vandyke shot Moreno during a traffic stop when he picked up a multitool.
May 10, 2013 – Charles Burns – Concord police Detectives Chris Loercher and Francisco Ramirez shot Burns after they had gone to Antioch to arrest him for suspected drug dealing. He was a passenger in a car that crashed into a police cruiser while fleeing. Burns ran from the car, police shot him, mauled him with a dog and shot him again while he was on the ground.
Sept. 4, 2013 – Juan Ruelas – Santa Clara police Sgt. Greg Hill, Detectives Travis Niesen, Cory Morgan, Justin Mead, Jake Thompson and Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Deputy Tyler Fernandes shot Ruelas when they attempted to arrest him for drug sales. During a sting, Niesen, posing as a drug buyer, shot Ruelas thinking he was reaching for his waistband and the other officers followed.
July 6, 2014 – Jeffrey McKinney – Hayward police Officers Kenneth Landreth and Ricardo Flores shot McKinney after he barricaded himself in a motel room. When the officers breached the door, he confronted them naked and they shot him.
Aug 3, 2014 – Jacorey Calhoun – Alameda County Sheriff’s Deputy Derek Thoms shot Calhoun during a backyard search after Calhoun fled police. Thoms had scrambled over a fence after his dog, which had bitten Calhoun, and found Calhoun running toward him.
Sept. 14, 2014 – Richard “Pedie” Perez – Richmond police Officer Wallace Jensen shot Perez after finding him drunk outside a liquor store. Perez had walked away after Jensen told him to sit on a curb, then Jensen tackled him, and said Perez reached for his gun.
July 5, 2015 – John Deming Jr. – Pleasanton police Officer Daniel Kunkel killed Deming after he was found inside a closed car dealership destroying property and acting erratically. Kunkel chased Deming outside, where Deming knocked him to the ground and started punching him, according to police.
Aug. 17, 2015 – Richard Jacquez – San Jose police Officer Jacob Morris killed Jacquez, a murder suspect who allegedly killed a robbery victim during a holdup days earlier, during a foot pursuit. Police initially said Jacquez had reached for his waistband, but later retracted that statement.
Dec. 14, 2015 – Hector Alvarez – Gilroy police Officer Adam Moon killed Alvarez while responding to a domestic violence report at Alvarez’s home. Police said Alvarez came outside, reached toward his waistband and charged at Moon.
Aug. 13, 2016 – Eric Ortega Soto – Hayward police Officers Jason Gillett and Daniel Gray shot Soto while he was a passenger in a stolen Mercedes. The driver, who was not injured, was allegedly ramming police cars.
Feb. 1, 2017 – Marquez Warren – Contra Costa County sheriff’s Deputy Vedder Li shot and killed Warren, 19, after Warren allegedly broke into Li’s Alameda home while Li was off duty.
Feb. 5, 2017 – Nana Adomako – Fremont police Officer James Taylor shot Adomako, who was homeless, after reports of a battery in a Verizon store. Adomako fought with Taylor when Taylor tried to stop him.
March 9, 2017 – Jesus Alberto Geney-Montes – Santa Clara police Officer Colin Stewart shot Geney-Montes after a standoff when Geney-Montes, suffering from self-inflicted stab wounds, threatened to shoot himself.
March 14, 2017 – Elena Mondragon – Fremont police Detective Joel Hernandez and Sgt. Jeremy Miskella shot and killed Mondragon, 16, while she was a passenger in a car while the driver attempted to flee the plainclothes detectives.
Sept. 15, 2017 – Jacob Dominguez – San Jose police Officer Michael Pina shot and killed Dominguez, an armed robbery suspect whom police followed while he was driving. The officers attempted to take him into custody at gunpoint but shot him when he lowered his hands.
Dec. 1, 2017 – Keita O’Neil – San Francisco police Officer Chris Samayoa shot O’Neil, 42, after a pursuit. O’Neil had abandoned his car and was running past the patrol car when Samayoa shot him through the window.
Feb. 13, 2018 – Ronell Foster – Vallejo police Officer Ryan McMahon shot Foster, 33, after attempting to stop him for not having a headlamp on his bicycle. Foster ran away and when McMahon caught up with him, the two fought. Police said Foster took McMahon’s flashlight before McMahon shot him.
Dec. 5, 2018 – David Alejandro Molina – Napa police Officer Christopher Simas shot Molina, a suspect in an assault who was reported to be armed. Molina ran away and fought with Simas when he caught up with him. Molina had discarded the gun before the confrontation.
The full dataset of fatal police shootings in the Bay Area from 2009-2018 is available here.