CAMPBELL -- Prosecutors heeded a man's self-defense claim when they decided not to file charges in the stabbing death of a 16-year-old boy during a weekend confrontation at Campbell's largest park, authorities said.

Todd Tharp, 24, was released from jail Tuesday night. He had been arrested on suspicion of murder after a scuffle broke out Sunday night near a baseball field at John D. Morgan Park and ended with 16-year-old Ivan Diaz Amezcua suffering a fatal stab wound.

"It's tragic that a 16-year-old is killed in any circumstance. The law tells us we have to look at the facts and evidence. (Tharp) had the right to defend himself," said Assistant District Attorney Marc Buller, who oversees homicide prosecutions.

Both Buller and police said even with Tharp freed, the investigation continues into Campbell's first homicide of the year.

Tharp told investigators he was attacked by Diaz and at least two other people and once he was knocked to the ground and absorbing kicks to his head, he pulled out a hunting knife with a six-inch blade and swung it to ward off his attackers, and Diaz was stabbed.

Buller said Tharp was beaten by as many as six people. Buller said the group, of which Diaz was a member, took offense to something Tharp said to them.

"What is clear is that at some point, Tharp was on the ground, being kicked in the head by numerous individuals numerous times," Buller said. "A reasonable person put in the position of Mr. Tharp would have believed he was in danger of serious bodily injury or death, and could legally respond with deadly force."


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It was Tharp's injuries that summoned the initial police attention to the park. After the fight, he stumbled to a nearby home and a resident called for help. Campbell police officers responded and found a bruised and battered Tharp.

As they were investigating what happened at the park, they were alerted that a teenage boy was brought to Valley Medical Center with a stab wound stemming from an incident in the same area.

It was Diaz, and around 3 a.m. Monday -- about seven hours after when the confrontation is believed to have occurred -- he was pronounced dead. After Tharp was treated for his injuries, he was arrested.

Family and friends of Diaz -- who attended Westmont High School before recently transferring to the alternative Boynton High School -- described the teen as peaceful and told reporters that if anyone was defending themselves, it was Diaz against Tharp. Friends of Tharp described him similarly: calm and non-confrontational.

Buller would not detail Diaz's actions, but said the teen "was involved in the altercation" and not as a passive observer.

Capt. Dave Carmichael said other than occasional police calls for people gathering in the park after hours -- it closes at dusk -- serious incidents are rare. There are surveillance cameras in the general area, but Carmichael did not say how much, if any, of the scuffle was recorded.

Concerned about possible retaliation, Campbell police said they helped Tharp relocate outside of Santa Clara County.

The death marked Campbell's first homicide of the year after recording two in 2013. Prior to that, the city went five years without one.

It also marks Santa Clara County's third self-defense killing this year that was given credence by authorities. A 22-year-old San Jose man was released from custody after a Feb. 12 stabbing where video surveillance showed that the man he killed, a 26-year-old bouncer in the downtown San Jose night scene, came at him with a knife and pushed him down first. On Feb. 20, a 22-year-old man was killed in the East San Jose foothills by a resident who says the deceased man and an accomplice tried to break into his home and fired shots at him before he returned fire. No arrests or charges have been made in that case.

Contact Robert Salonga at 408-920-5002. Follow him at Twitter.com/robertsalonga.