SAN JOSE -- An early Saturday morning shooting in southwest San Jose pushed the number of homicides in 2012 to 40 -- matching a 16-year high with two months left to go in the year.

Homicide detectives were investigating the death of a shooting victim who had been dropped off at Good Samaritan Hospital about 1:24 a.m.

It was still unclear late Saturday who took the dying man to the hospital. The man was pronounced dead as soon as he arrived at the hospital, police said.

According to police, the shooting occurred outside in the 1500 block of Kooser Road in the Cambrian Park area of southwest San Jose. The assailant, or assailants, were still at large.

Police said witnesses were cooperating with the investigation but that the victim's identity and the motive for the shooting were not being immediately released.

San Jose had 40 homicides in 2011, twice the 2010 tally and a 15-year high. Originally, police reported 39 homicides last year, but then added one when a man was arrested last month in connection with a September 2011 case that was originally classified as a suicide.

Officer Albert Morales, a police spokesman, said Saturday that San Jose still has among the lowest murder rates of any major American city, despite the uptick this year.

"It's really alarming to us as a police department," Morales said. "But when you look at a comparison to San Francisco or Oakland, the number of violent crimes and homicides are lower here than those other big cities, and we have a larger population."

With San Jose on pace for 49 homicides this year, there could be a number of reasons for the jump, from increased gang activity to random chance -- a gunshot wound one inch off could be a moderate injury, or lethal, depending on which artery the bullet hit, for example, Morales noted.

But, he said, nobody knows for certain the reason for the increase in homicides.

In recent months, violent crime in San Jose has made headlines.

An 11-day stretch in August was one of the most violent runs in San Jose history, when eight people were killed. It led to rallies from worried residents and hard questions for city officials on how to stop the spike in slayings. Police said gang violence was suspected in some cases, but noted that others during the Aug. 13-23 spate were apparently not tied to gangs.

The spike in violence came at a troubling time for the city, shocking residents and rekindling a battle between City Hall and the police union about budget cuts, police understaffing and rising crime rates.

In mid-October, 10 suspects were arrested in connection with two separate gang-related killings of young men that occurred about a month apart in the same East San Jose neighborhood. Those arrests enabled police to solve the city's 15th and 19th homicides of the year.

Morales at the time commended residents for coming forward with increasing frequency to offer tips and help detectives identify suspects.

"People are actually coming forward and helping solve some of these cases, " Morales said. "They're getting tired of it, too. They're tired of being held captive in their own neighborhoods. These are things we need for the public, and we're getting results."

Staff writers Katie Nelson, Patrick May and Robert Salonga contributed to this report. Contact Kristin J. Bender at kbender@bayareanewsgroup.com or follow her at Twitter.com/kjbender. Contact Paul Rogers at 408-920-5045. Follow him at Twitter.com/PaulRogersSJMN.