No Charges for California Officers Who Killed Man Carrying Hatchet

Two California police officers who shot and killed a hatchet-wielding man earlier this year won’t face charges because the shooting was legal, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office said.

The incident took place at Metcalf Energy Center in San Jose on Jan. 9.

Thompson Nguyen of San Jose drove to the power plant armed with two hatchets, three pipes, seven knives, nunchucks, a GoPro camera, and a sword. He was confronted by the officers, who he repeatedly asked to shoot him, according to David Boyd, deputy district attorney.

“Shoot me!” Nguyen told the responding officers. “Kill me!”

“We don’t want to shoot,” one of the officers replied.

The officers tried to de-escalate the situation but shot Nguyen when he rushed them with a hatchet and metal staff. Each officer fired four times.

san jose shooting jan 9
A police shooting in January 2018 that killed a man was legal, the Santa Clara District Attorney said on Oct. 23, 2018. (Santa Clara District Attorney’s Office)

‘He Had Decided’

“Any reasonable officer would conclude that Nguyen, whether as a result of a mental health issue or not, had decided that he was going to die that day and that if he had to attack an officer with a weapon to make it happen, he was going to do so,” Boyd wrote in the 44-page report.

By law, police officers can use potentially deadly force when they or others are faced with imminent danger.

Video footage released by the district attorney’s office showed Nguyen advancing on officers with the weapons.

“This video is graphic and viewer discretion is advised. The district attorney’s office tries to balance the values of privacy and transparency. Finding the right balance is important to maintain and build public trust in the criminal justice system. We are releasing these videos because it was relevant to our decision,” the office said in a statement.

Nguyen is believed to have been suffering from mental illness; journals in his vehicle included portions where he wrote that employees at the Metcalf Energy Center had implanted microchips in his brain. They also found a fake police badge in the car.

san jose shooting death
A police shooting in January 2018 that killed a man was legal, the Santa Clara District Attorney said on Oct. 23, 2018. (Santa Clara District Attorney’s Office)

‘Troubling’

While the district attorney concluded that the shooting was lawful, others disagreed.

“Although he’s saying a lot of different things, he’s walking away from them, not toward them. That’s the troubling part of it,” Richard Konda with the Asian Law Alliance told CBS.

Konda said that officers could have de-escalated the situation without shooting Nguyen.

“It seems like there should have been some way to de-escalate the situation. It seems as soon as the officers arrived, things got escalated,” he said.