SANTA CLARA -- Officers shot and killed a reportedly despondent woman who came at them with a baseball bat Sunday afternoon, according to the Santa Clara Police Department.
A 53-year-old woman called 911 dispatchers around 4:50 p.m. and made "threats to harm herself and others," prompting officers to go to her apartment at a gated complex in the 5000 block of Lick Mill Drive, Lt. Kurt Clarke said.
When several officers arrived at the woman's first-floor apartment, they called out to her and tried to make contact, Clarke said. Within moments, police say, the door swung open and she emerged with an aluminum baseball bat in hand.
"The door opened, and the officers were immediately confronted by a female holding a bat," Clarke said.
Two male officers opened fire, hitting the woman, who was initially described only as a 53-year-old white female standing about 5 feet, 5 inches tall. She was taken to the hospital, where she died from her injuries. Her identity was not immediately released.
Santa Clara police identified the officers who fired the shots as Sgt. Alan Wolf, a 25-year veteran of the department, and Officer Andrew McGuire, who has been with the force for 22 months.
Clarke said the woman was shot before she could hit any of the officers, none of whom was injured. He also said the officers who opened fire were left with no choice.
"It unfolded rather quickly," Clarke said. "She made a motion toward the officers, and they didn't have any other options than to use their firearms."
Clarke said he could not comment on whether the officers had their weapons drawn when they tried to contact the woman. In addition to their service pistols, Santa Clara police officers are equipped with Tasers.
It was not immediately known whether the woman, who appears to have lived alone in the apartment, had any police contact before Sunday afternoon. But it's one of numerous potential mental-health crises that police are confronted with every day.
Between 15 and 20 percent of police calls involve a suspected mental health episode, said Patrick Dwyer, a retired law-enforcement officer in Santa Clara County who now trains police in how to deal with the mentally ill as a contractor with the county mental health department. During a recent five-year period, 10 out of 22 officer-involved shootings in the South Bay involved suspected mental health issues.
Dwyer, whose career spanned 29 years with San Jose police followed by stints of chief in Palo Alto, Sunnyvale and Hayward, said the county has extensive training for officers to preemptively de-escalate crises and, ideally, refer people to services. But he acknowledged that ideal isn't always possible.
"When a subject is coming at you with a weapon, it's not time to think about de-escalation and referral; it's about saving your life and others," Dwyer said.
The two officers who opened fire have been placed on paid administrative leave while an investigation is launched in conjunction with the District Attorney's Office, which is standard practice after officer-involved shootings. It was Santa Clara's first officer involved shooting of the year. Staff writer Eric Kurhi contributed to this report. Contact Robert Salonga at 408-920-5002. Follow him at Twitter.com/robertsalonga.