San Jose

Family of Man Killed by San Jose Police Files Federal Lawsuit Against City

Police acknowledged the suspect was unarmed, but evidence linked him to several violent crimes

Authorities at the scene of an officer-involved shooting in San Jose.
NBC Bay Area

The family of an unarmed man shot and killed by San Jose police officers in January is suing the city of San Jose, according to the family's attorney.

David Tovar Jr., 27, who police say was a person of interest in a homicide and other crimes, was gunned down by officers without warning and then mauled by a police K-9 at the Villa Fairlane apartment complex on Jan. 21, according to the federal lawsuit filed by civil rights attorneys Adanté D. Pointer and Patrick Buelna.

The suit demands the immediate arrest and prosecution of the officers involved in the deadly shooting.

Police acknowledged Tovar, a Gilroy resident, was unarmed during the confrontation, but his alleged connection to several violent offenses had officers on heightened alert.

Tovar was running away from police on a second-floor landing of the complex and was shot by police on the ground floor after an officer saw Tovar reach into his waistband, pulling out what the officer "believed to be the butt of a handgun," acting Police Chief David Tindall said after the shooting. It was later confirmed to be either a silver and black cellphone or screwdriver.

Tindall's account contradicts the lawsuit's allegation that Tovar was not warned. He said officers approached Tovar and "gave him multiple commands to show his hands," but he did not comply.

The lawsuit, however, alleges officers failed to make any attempts to deescalate the situation or use less lethal force prior to opening fire with their "military-style assault rifles."

Buelna said in a statement officers' errant gunfire put other residents of the apartment complex in harm's way.

"The officers needlessly fired multiple assault rifles in an occupied apartment building," he said. "The community is fortunate they didn’t hurt any other people with their reckless conduct. We could easily be grieving the loss of more innocent lives, not just Mr. Tovar’s."

The attorneys said there is video of the shooting that shows the father of three "did not present a deadly threat to anyone when he was mercilessly gunned down."

Tovar was the main suspect in a Jan. 3 homicide of 35-year-old San Benito County resident Russell Anthony Lewis on Fairview Drive in Gilroy, police said after the January shooting. Tindall added there was ample evidence, including DNA, video and eyewitness reports, linking Tovar to offenses including two other shootings in southern Santa Clara County.

Bay City News contributed to this report.

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