SAN JOSE -- A San Jose police sergeant was justified in fatally shooting a meth-addled man in 2011 who repeatedly rammed a stolen car into patrol cruisers and withstood Tasers and a pistol-whipping in his haste to escape, the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office announced Wednesday.
In a 25-page report clearing the use of deadly force by Sgt. Sergio Carabarin, prosecutors said the officer's actions prevented a potential rampage by a driver with an extensive criminal history that included fleeing from police, and who reportedly told an acquaintance that he would rather get in a high-speed chase than go back to jail.
"Sgt. Carabarin's use of force may have saved the lives of his fellow officers and civilians," the report concluded.
The shooting has spurred a federal civil suit by the family of 32-year-old Varun Kumar, who died in the wild Oct. 16, 2011, confrontation with police at an apartment complex on Wooster Avenue east of downtown San Jose. The wrongful-death suit claimed Kumar was unarmed and not doing anything illegal when approached by police and that he was trying to surrender, starkly contrasting authorities' version of events.
According to the District Attorney's report, police were called to the Parkside Terrace Apartments around noon for reports of a man brandishing a gun inside a stolen black Ford Taurus that was used in a drive-by purse snatching earlier that week.
They would find out later that the caller, an acquaintance of Kumar's, hadn't actually seen a gun but knew Kumar had one after he fired it into the air at the complex earlier in the week.
Officers found the Taurus with Kumar inside and tried to block his path with their patrol cars, the report says. He reportedly ignored their orders to show his hands and surrender, and instead backed into the cruiser of Officer Ryan Kimber. Kumar pinballed his car between the police vehicles, parked cars and a carport support pole in an attempt to break free, sending officers leaping out of his path.
Kimber and reserve Officer Phil Juan fired their Tasers at Kumar, but the darts did not make strong enough contact to disable him. Carabarin reached into the driver's side and used his pistol to strike Kumar in the head repeatedly, but the driver did not stop.
At one point Kumar reached toward his car's center console, which Carabarin feared might be him reaching for a weapon, based on the information they were given when they were called.
The sergeant, by then a 28-year veteran of the force, fired three shots at Kumar, one of which struck him in the back. Kumar died at the scene. An autopsy determined he was under the influence of methamphetamine.
It is unclear whether the report will affect the Kumar family's civil suit, which names as defendants the city of San Jose, former Chief Chris Moore, Carabarin, Kimber, Juan, and 50 other unnamed parties. The family's lawyer, Oakland civil-rights attorney John Burris, did not immediately return a call for comment.
Contact Robert Salonga at 408-920-5002. Follow him at Twitter.com/robertsalonga.