The city of San Jose as well as law enforcement officials across the Bay Area are reeling after suicidal man with a high-powered rifle opened fire on the cops sent to check on his well-being, killing one of them.
A family member of 57-year-old San Jose man Scott Durham called police Tuesday evening, saying that they feared Durham might a threat to himself or others. The caller told police that Durham was was despondent, intoxicated and had access to weapons, including a high-powered rifle.
According to the Chron, Durham "reportedly threatened his wife and said he would kill her if 'she didn’t leave,' the police dispatcher told officers responding to the call."
Officer Michael Johnson (photo above) was among the SJPD officers then dispatched to Durham's apartment on the 2600 block of Senter Road in San Jose at around 6:50 Tuesday evening. When they arrived at the scene, Dunham allegedly fired the high-powered rifle at officers from his residence, shooting Johnson and killing him immediately, SJPD spokesperson Officer Albert Morales says.
You can hear a recording of the SJPD radio call from the scene here:
Following the shooting, area homes were evacuated, and officers from neighboring agencies swarmed the area, including those from the California Highway Patrol, the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, and Santa Clara and Sunnyvale police. Armored vehicles and a helicopter were also deployed in efforts to ensure Durham did not evade capture, as there were "leads that indicated he might be elsewhere," the San Jose Mercury News reports.
Police used explosives to breach Durham's apartment at 1:30 this morning, then sent in a robot with a camera, the Merc reports. It was around 3:20 when Durham was found, lying dead on his balcony.
“It’s unfortunate that this person had the nerve and the audacity to shoot at our officers responding to a call for service for assistance,” San Jose police Chief Larry Esquivel said at a press conference Tuesday evening.
Esquivel said that other than the initial exchange of gunfire with officers, Durham didn't have any contact with police during the confrontation. Esquivel was as yet unsure if Durham was shot during the firefight, or if his wound was self-inflicted, saying only that "We are working with the coroner to determine the cause of death."
A 14-year veteran of the force, Johnson was a field training officer, worked with recruits, and was also a patrol officer. He leaves behind a wife, who was out of town when the shooting occurred, the Associated Press reports.
Johnson was not with any recruits when he responded to the incident, Morales says.
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said that he had met with Johnson's family to give them his condolences.
“This has been San Jose’s darkest hour. Our hearts go out to the family, the friends and colleagues of the fallen officer. This strikes at the heart of all of us here in San Jose and throughout the region.” Liccardo says.
This was the first police fatality for San Jose since 2001, when officer Jeffrey Fontana as shot and killed. According to Morales, Johnson had been in the same academy class as Fontana.
Johnson's colleagues are reeling from the incident, Morales says.
"Officers were obviously crying, weeping. They will do so for quite some time," he said.