San Jose police say a person suspected of violence was unarmed when he was fatally shot by cops

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) – A Gilroy man who was shot and killed by San Jose police on Thursday was unarmed during the confrontation, police confirmed on Monday.

David Lee Tovar, 27, was fatally shot and killed on January 21 in an apartment complex on La Pala Drive near McKee Road.

Tovar ran away from the police on a landing in the second floor complex and was shot dead by police on the ground floor after an officer saw Tovar reach into his waistband and pull out what the officer thought was “the butt of a pistol” David Tindall said on Monday.

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“This elevated position gave Tovar a distinct advantage over the officers on the ground,” said Tindall. “When three officers saw an imminent threat, they fired their division with rifles at Tovar.”

Tindall said the police then contacted Tovar and “gave him several orders to show his hands,” but he failed to do so.

A police dog was then used to help with the arrest and then officers began taking life-saving measures while waiting for paramedics to arrive, Tindall said.

Tovar was taken to a hospital where he died.

Police later confirmed that the object believed to be a pistol was either a silver and black cell phone or a screwdriver found on the spot.

The confrontation at the Villa Fairlane apartment complex came after a 10-month investigation and multiple attempts to arrest Tovar in connection with multiple crimes, a murder and two other shootings in southern Santa Clara County.

But Rosie Chavez, organizer at Silicon Valley De-Bug, said regardless of Tovar’s records, and especially given his unarmedness, his death was not justified.

“I understand the fact that he is known to commit crimes, but that is exactly why we have a criminal justice system,” said Chavez. “He was killed before he had a chance to be found guilty or innocent.”

She also noted that many family members denied Tovar’s involvement in the crime, saying they had been left in the dark as to the circumstances of the shooting.

However, Tindall said there is ample evidence, including DNA, video and eyewitness reports, linking Tovar to the crimes.

During Monday’s press conference, Tindall outlined a schedule for Tovar’s alleged crimes between April and October last year, which included multiple robberies, break-ins and at least two vehicle thefts.

More recently, Tovar was the prime suspect in the January 3 murder of San Benito County’s 35-year-old Russell Anthony Lewis on Fairview Drive in Gilroy.

He was also being investigated for a shootout that occurred two days before the Gilroy murder and a near-fatal attack that occurred two days later on Jan. 5 when Tovar may have used a shotgun to shoot a man without a house .

Tindall called it a “violent crime”.

“The San Jose police were part of an effort by several agencies to connect the dots and arrest the productive and increasingly violent person who is falling victim to our South Bay,” said Tindall.

On January 14, Gilroy police attempted to arrest Tovar, but he is believed to have used his car to hit police cars and escape.

Tovar, a probation officer and apparently a documented gang member, was investigated alongside Gil Jose at Gilroy, Morgan Hill, and by the California Highway Patrol.

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Chavez said Monday’s press conference effectively detailed Tovar’s alleged crimes but failed to reveal the effects of “police violence in the community”.

She said that when she went to the complex’s residents on Monday, she saw at least eight bullet holes in the walls and windows of apartments.

“There were kids on the other side of the shootout,” Chavez said. “The police just terrified and terrified this whole community here in the complex.”

She also noted the tactics of an undercover police unit approaching the San Jose complex in unmarked vehicles and unmarked clothing with neither the ability nor the intention to de-escalate the situation.

“I know this because they did the same thing to my nephew, who was killed by SJPD in 2017,” Chavez said. “He was unarmed and fulfilled himself with his hands up.”

Tindall said the three officers involved in the shooting received crisis intervention training – official de-escalation training for the police.

The officers were not injured and their identities were not disclosed “because of the covert nature of their duties,” Tindall said.

The acting police chief also confirmed that all three officers were wearing their body-worn cameras and that the footage will be released within the next 30 to 45 days in accordance with legal requirements.

“Residents and the general public can see what officers saw,” Tindall said. “The investigation will speak for itself; the facts will speak for themselves.”

Tovar’s death marks the first police shootout in 2021. In 2020, five police shootings were reported, one of which was fatal.

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