Campbell Police: Teen, 16, Fatally Stabbed By Homeless Man in Park

Dozens of friends gathered Monday night to remember Ivan Diaz Amezcua, a 16-year-old boy who was fatally stabbed at a popular Campbell park.

"He was really quiet, but so caring," said Cielo Cadenas, Amezcua's 15-year-old girlfriend. "He cared about a lot of people. He wanted to graduate for sure. He wanted to be somebody when he grew up."

Campbell police arrested a 24-year-old homeless man in connection with the fatal stabbing of the San Jose teen.

Police on Monday said Todd Tharp was taken into custody after a fight with the teen by the bleachers at John D. Morgan Park -- the city's largest park -- sometime about 8:30 p.m. on Sunday.

It's unclear what the fight was over or how the two knew each other. But police said Tharp pulled out a six-inch hunting knife and allegedly killed Amezcua, a junior at Boynton High School -- a continuation school -- who recently transferred from Westmont High School. Both schools are in Campbell.

Grief counselors were at both schools on Monday, trying to help students cope with the death of a classmate as Campbell police continue to investigate the city's first homicide of 2014.

Campbell Police Sgt. Joe Cefalu told NBC Bay Area that Tharp was giving police "complete cooperation" and he may have been acting in self-defense, even though detectives haven't completed their investigation.

“That’s one of the angles we’ll be investigating,” Cefalu said. “It will be up to the DA to determine if it was self-defense, but that’s one of the angles we’re looking at.”

In a jailhouse interview, Tharp gave NBC Bay Area his account of what happened before he says he was forced to pull out his knife:

“He turns and he hits me; he hits me, right? I hit him and hit him twice and he hits me, hit me once, and then one of the friends caught me from the side. He started kicking me and that's it. Only in my head, nowhere else, just my head."

Tharp said that he begged them to stop but they wouldn't, and that's when he started swinging with his knife in his hand.


One of Tharp's friends, Clayton Keith, said Monday morning that he suspects Tharp, whom he called "a good guy," might have pulled out a knife because he was being jumped.

“Something goes wrong and they jump him,” Keith said. “And he ends up stabbing one and killing the other. Something had to push him that way, and it’s probably because they were punching him or something.”

Amezcua's friends at the memorial also disputed claims that he was part of a gang.

"This is a 16-year-old boy we all know and he is not gang affiliated," Cadenas said. "And he would never throw a first punch for anything. If anything, he did it in self defense."

Sadness turned into tension around 8 p.m. Monday when a few dozen friends gathered for a candlelight vigil at the spot where Amezcua was stabbed at the park.

A few different girls got into an altercation, visibly upset, while the others shouted at them to leave. Two Campbell police officers who had patrolled the park earlier in the day warned the group to stay quiet or leave.

Eventually, things settled down as everyone focused attention back on the growing memorial.

Police responded to that same park on Sunday after getting a call about a homeless man who was injured. At the same time, police also received a call from Valley Medical Center just before 3 a.m. on Monday that a 16-year-old San Jose boy had died of a stab wound.

Tharp was arrested after the teen died. He is suffering from serious injuries -- and police believe it may be from the confrontation with the teenager.

Tharp was booked into the Santa Clara County Jail on a murder charge.

Anyone with information should call Sgt. Gary Berg at 408-871-5190.

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