A Santa Clara police officer who shot and killed a mentally ill suspect in March was cleared Thursday of any wrongdoing by the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office.
Officer Colin Stewart fatally shot Jesus Geney-Montes, 24, a Colombian native, several times during a standoff on March 9. Prosecutors released a 53-page public report today that concluded the shooting was justified.
Prosecutor Carolyn Powell said in a statement:
“Seeing Geney-Montes charging towards him and believing his life was in danger, Officer Stewart chose to defend himself by discharging his weapon. … Under the facts, circumstances and applicable law in this matter, Officer Colin Stewart’s use of force was in response to an objectively reasonable belief that he was facing an immediate threat of great bodily injury or death.”
Santa Clara police Lt. Dan Moreno said the department agrees with prosecutors’ findings and referred questions to the district attorney’s office. Moreno said Stewart is back on active duty, although he couldn’t confirm the date he returned to active duty patrolling.
Police responded to calls for service at Geney-Montes home five times on the day of the shooting. In the first four cases, no crime had been committed and police said it was safer to back off after investigating the calls at the Deborah Drive home where he lived with his mother and stepfather, according to the district attorney’s office.
During those visits, Geney-Montes allegedly threatened his stepfather, himself, and officers, saying he had a gun and would shoot them if they came in, prosecutors said.
The final call came around 5 p.m., with Geney-Montes’ mother reporting he had stabbed himself and escaped out of his bedroom window.
A graphic body camera video of the shooting from Stewart’s perspective was released by prosecutors Thursday and shows Geney-Montes walking away from officers during a standoff prior to the shots being fired as officers attempted to have him surrender peacefully.
Officers can be heard telling Geney-Montes during the video, “you’re not going to die today” as they attempted to get him down from his perch on an embankment on the Scott Boulevard overpass above the officers’ position.
He told officers during the standoff that he had a gun and would kill them, although he was later found to be unarmed. Prosecutors said Geney-Montes had his hand in his pockets for most of the standoff.
As Geney-Montes walked away from the officers, Stewart and other officers jumped a fence that was separating them and Geney-Montes, who kept walking away and passed through a gated door underneath the overpass and near the railroad tracks.
The video shows Stewart approaching Geney-Montes, at first attempting to use his Taser stun gun to subdue him, which prosecutors said was ineffective. Mere seconds after that, the video shows Geney-Montes appearing to approach Stewart, with the door still between Stewart and Geney-Montes before the officer fired four shots at the suspect, fatally injuring him.
Prosecutors said that Geney-Montes was mentally ill and suicidal in the standoff leading up to the shooting, claiming he was armed and had in fact stabbed himself several times sometime during the standoff before being shot. A bloody knife was found in bushes near where he jumped a fence.
Prosecutors justified releasing video of the shooting, saying it was important to the case.
“Finding the right balance is important to maintain and build public trust in the criminal justice system. We are releasing this video because it was relevant to our decision,” prosecutors said in the statement.
A friend of Geney-Montes created a GoFundMe account in March to raise funds for his body to be returned to his native Colombia.
According to the GoFundMe page at https://www.gofundme.com/chuchosrepatriation, Geney-Montes was born in Bogota and raised by his aunt in Sampues, Sucre, Colombia, until he moved to Santa Clara 12 years ago to live with his mother and stepfather.
The page’s administrator Andres Valderrama said that Geney-Montes was completing general education courses at De Anza College and planned to become an odontologist, a forensic dentist.
“Chucho was such a fine young man. He was well loved by all of us that had the fortune of know [sic] him,” Valderrama wrote on the page. “He was respectful, responsible and helpful with those around him.” As of today, the page had raised $6,877 of its $15,000 goal, with the last donation coming seven months ago.
A request for comment from Valderrama regarding the district attorney’s office decision today went unreturned.