Two San Jose police officers who rushed to the scene of last year's deadly mass shooting at a VTA rail yard spoke publicly about the chaos for the first time Thursday as the community marked one year since the massacre.
Sgt. Eddie Chan and Officer Michael Richmond were both in the middle of a dayshift briefing when the violence began.
"Officer Robinson had a patrol car in front of our central supply," Richmond said. "We didn’t know whose it was. We just grabbed it and we went."
They drove a block and a half to the VTA yard and met with other officers and deputies.
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"We landed on the corner," Chan said. "I recognized one face and felt very comfortable with Officer Hoops. We made eye contact and looked at the crowd and said, 'It's time to go.'"
Before he gave the signal, Chan knew he might not survive.
"That’s the first thing that went through my mind when I got in my car," he said. "It was, 'This might be the one, the one where I might not come back.'"
As the officers made their way to Building B, they could hear the gunfire. But it's the smell of gunpowder that they still can't shake even today.
"You could smell it getting stronger and stronger as we were ascending the staircase," Chan said.
When they reached the target, the shooter had already taken his own life.
The imagery of the carnage was shocking, even for the veteran officers.
"It's horrific, it really is," Richmond said. "Everything you train for is to go into a chaotic situation, and that’s what it was. But go on there and see the lethality of it."
The mental scars for the officers are still there. They went from a briefing to the crime scene within minutes, but to them, that still wasn't fast enough.
"That’s the hardest part to grasp," Richmond said. "We got to the stairs in six minutes. We could hear those gunshots as we’re going up the stairs. You try to run and get up there as fast as possible."
Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen on Thursday awarded the paramedics, firefighters, deputies and police officers who ran to help.
"Let’s never let heroism be humdrum," he said.