SJPD Sniper: Training Is a Lifesaver

Get the behind-the-scenes story of a child kidnapping case in San Jose that ended with the suspect dead and a little girl back in the arms of her mother.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBC Bay Area's Damian Trujillo has an exclusive report.

    He remembers getting the call to go in.

    "I think a lot of us that day might have had a little nervousness right before we grounded the door, ” said San Jose police officer Mauricio Jimenez.

    Jimenez is a sniper with department’s SWAT team, known as MERGE  for Mobile Emergency Response Group and Equipment. He spoke for the first time about the confrontation that day, exclusively with NBC Bay Area.

    "But once the door is knocked down by the other guys on the team I think there was no time for nervousness. We had to revert back to our training," said Jimenez.

    Jimenez is talking about that deadly day on Jan. 20.

    Tri Truong Le, 42, was suspected of shooting a gun in his ex-girlfriend’s home on Taffy Court in San Jose, then kidnapping an 11-year old girl who was inside the house.

    A few hours later, Le was spotted inside a condo on Pistachio Drive in San Jose Commanders called on the MERGE unit.

    "They heard gunshots. They heard a little girl screaming,” said Lt. Eddie Pedreira, the commander of the MERGE unit.

    "I had no hesitation about giving the order for them to accomplish the mission because I felt comfortable with their training," said Pedreira.

    So MERGE went in and Jimenez was first inside the home.

    On top of the staircase, he said he saw Le, with the victim wrapped around his arm. Police say Le was using the girl as a shield, and Le was also holding a knife in that hand.

    In the other hand, Le had a gun. That’s when  Jimenez took two strategically placed shots with his M-4, 223-calibre rifle..

    Both shots hit and killed the suspect.

    His team then rescued the victim. Jimenez said careful training prepared him for the shots.

    "Just a lot of hours of training, hours on the range," said Jimenez.

    Jimenez is a 12-year veteran of the San Jose Police Department. NBC Bay Area cameras were also allowed the rare opportunity to record some of the tough training MERGE officers go through.

    The type of training that helped Jiminez make those perfect shots.  The officer is a quiet, soft-spoken officer who deflected all the credit for his actions that day.

    "Are you a hero,”  I asked.

    "I wouldn’t say that… Like I said, it’s our job," said Jimenez. "Hostage situations, you can’t just shoot without having 100-percent certainty of your target and your backstop."

    Pedreira said, "This is probably the most hazardous response an officer had to make in the tactical SWAT world. They went forward toward the gunfire and saved a little girl’s life."

    But Jiminez is careful to defer attention from himself.

    "It’s not me, it’s the whole team," said Jimenez. "It’s hard for me to talk about myself because it was a team effort. Everyone on my team would have done exactly the same thing, or better."
      
    Officers later found out Le was shooting blanks from his gun.

    They’re not sure if this was a case of suicide by cop, or when a suicidal person deliberately threatens an officer in the hopes that he or she will kill him.

    Nevertheless, Jimenez’s commander says the city of San Jose can feel safer, knowing there’s a group of 12 men out there who aren’t afraid to put it all on the line for their community.