SANTA CLARA -- Moments away from letting off the drunken driver with a warning because he was already at his apartment complex, Officer Joshua Craig spotted a revolver within the motorist's reach, where it had not been seconds before.
Craig drew his service pistol and frantically shouted at the driver, telling him to keep his hands on his head, according to an official report. The man, despondent with four times the legal limit of alcohol coursing through his veins, reached for a weapon.
The Santa Clara officer fired twice at Jose Jesus Ramirez, killing him instantly.
An 18-page report from the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office released Tuesday concludes the Jan. 14, 2012 shooting was justified.
"Officer Craig had no way of knowing if Ramirez intended to shoot himself, shoot the officer or provoke the officer into shooting him," the report states. "However, the law is clear that an officer may reasonably use deadly force when he confronts an armed suspect in close proximity, whose actions indicate intent to attack."
According to the report, Craig was on patrol around 10 p.m. that night and saw a Toyota sedan with expired registration stickers near San Tomas Expressway and Homestead Road. He followed the car to an apartment complex in the 2400 block of Karen Drive and flashed his lights.
The 42-year-old Ramirez started to get out of the car before Craig ordered him to stay inside. After eyeing the inside
After running a records check, Craig returned to the car, intending to give Ramirez a warning, since the driver was already parked in his own driveway, the report says. But then he saw Ramirez's right hand moving and spotted the top of a .38 revolver between the driver's right thigh and the car's center console, which he hadn't seen during his first pass, leading him to believe that Ramirez took it out while he was away.
Craig drew his Glock service pistol, pointed it at Ramirez's head and ordered him to put his hands on the steering wheel, then on top of his head.
Ramirez initially complied but then started slowly reaching for the revolver, the report says.
"Put your (expletive) hand on top of your head," Craig shouted.
Ramirez ignored the officer, said "No speak English" despite speaking fluent English minutes before. Just as Ramirez's fingertips brushed against the revolver, Craig fired two shots into the left side of Ramirez's head.
Prosecutors said it was later determined that Ramirez's blood-alcohol level was four times the legal limit and that he had long-standing financial and family troubles. Neighbors told investigators that Ramirez also drank heavily.
The report says a search of Ramirez's car turned up a pillowcase filled with ammunition for the revolver, five unopened 32-ounce bottles of beer and an open bottle within reach of the driver's seat.
Contact Robert Salonga at 408-920-5002. Follow him at Twitter.com/robertsalonga.