San Jose police have released recordings and transcripts of 911 and police dispatch tapes in the shooting death of a mentally ill man who had attacked his brother with a knife.
The tapes, along with police reports which were also made public, show responding officers followed protocol and had no choice but to shoot and kill Daniel Pham, 27, in the backyard of his home on Branbury Way on Mother's Day, police Lt. Rikki Goede said.
The two officers, who fired a total of 14 rounds at Pham after he allegedly moved towards them while holding a knife, "acted appropriately" by using deadly force, Goede said.
Twelve of the bullets hit Pham, who was pronounced dead at the scene. A grand jury last week declined to file charges against the officers, who are now back on active duty, Goede said.
Pham's family has maintained police should have known Daniel was mentally ill, as police had previously responded to their home to calm Daniel down.
But the police reports, released today pursuant to a decision last week by the San Jose Rules and Open Government Committee, suggest officers may not have known about Pham's mental condition when they shot and killed him the morning of May 10.
According to the reports, police received two 911 calls at 11:33 a.m. One caller told the dispatcher his neighbor was "cut up" and that the neighbor's brother was the attacker. The victim told the caller that the attacker was "high right now."
The second caller, a woman, identified the attacker as "Son Pham," her boyfriend's brother.
At 11:37 a.m., a dispatcher related this information to responding officers.
"The suspect in this is a Son Pham," the dispatcher said, according to the transcript. The dispatcher also noted a prior "5150" call,
for mental illness, at the same address.
The mental-illness call "(is) associated to a Daniel Pham - not sure if that's our (reporting party)," the dispatcher said.
Officers Brian Jeffrey and Matthew Blackerby arrived at 11:40 a.m. and saw Pham's brother, Brian, 29, in the front lawn, bleeding from a cut across his neck. The officers spotted Daniel Pham in the home's fenced-in yard, holding a knife and smoking a cigarette.
Jeffrey pointed his gun at Pham and ordered him to drop the knife, according to police reports. Pham "glared" at Jeffrey and continued to smoke his cigarette, the reports say.
Blackerby then followed the fence, topped with razor wire, around a corner and shot Pham with his Taser. One of the Taser prongs lodged in Pham's leg, while the second prong missed him, Goede said.
Pham pulled out the Taser prong and appeared to advance toward Blackerby with the knife, Goede said.
Jeffrey, not knowing Blackerby was standing outside the fence, thought his partner was in danger and jumped over the fence to help, Goede said. Jeffrey again pointed his gun at Pham and demanded he drop the knife, she said.
Blackerby also jumped over the fence to assist, Goede said, and Pham advanced toward both of them with the knife.
"The suspect, he has the knife overhead, in a slashing motion," Goede told reporters during a press conference at police headquarters.
When Pham ignored repeated verbal orders to drop the knife, both officers opened fire, Goede said.
Even after Pham was shot and lying on the ground, he continued to grasp the knife, Goede said. One officer can be heard on the dispatch tape, after the shots were fired, yelling, "Drop the knife, now!"
Paramedics arrived at the scene, and Pham was pronounced dead at 11:51 a.m.
"This was a very dynamic, fast-moving, ever-changing situation," Goede said, noting the officers had to take action quickly. The shooting happened one minute, 44 seconds after the officers arrived, she said.
Goede also noted the victim, Brian Pham, initially told police his brother was high on drugs and did not mention any mental illness.
An autopsy revealed Pham had only nicotine in his system, and no other drugs.
"The brother said in later interviews (with police), he did not want to mention (Daniel) was mentally ill," thinking there would be a better outcome that way, Goede said.
The department's synopsis of the Pham shooting, also released this afternoon, emphasizes the officers "were not aware that Daniel Pham and Son Pham (were) the same individual." Son is Daniel Pham's Vietnamese name.
In response to a reporter's question about a possible language barrier, Goede said she did not know if Daniel Pham spoke or understood English. All of the officers' orders were in English.
A lawyer for the Pham family could not be reached for comment.