San Jose police say person of interest in Gilroy murder was unarmed when he was fatally shot by officers

Photo: Facebook/SanJosePD
By Wesley Severson - Published on January 27, 2021.

As Hoodline previously reported, San Jose police fatally shot a man last week who was reportedly wanted for several crimes in the South Bay including a homicide. The man who was killed has now been identified as 27-year-old David Lee Tovar Jr., and he was shot at an apartment complex on La Pala Drive near McKee Road on January 21.

On January 25, SJPD offered an update to the case at a news conference where they revealed that Tovar was unarmed when he was gunned down by three officers in a second-floor outdoor area of the complex.

Investigators had shown up to arrest Tovar, who was wanted as a person of interest in connection to a killing in Gilroy. He had previously been described as a suspect.

Acting San Jose Police Chief David Tindall says that Tovar was trying to escape from officers, and that his position on a second-floor landing left officers that were on the ground below vulnerable. 

Tindall says an officer saw Tovar pull what officers thought was the butt of a handgun from his waistband forcing officers to open fire on Tovar, killing him.

According to investigators, the object that officers thought was a gun was either a cell phone or a screwdriver which were both found nearby.

Officers say they gave Tovar several chances to comply with officers’ demands and show his hands but he refused.

Tindall says that all three officers who were involved captured the incident on their body cameras and the footage will be released in the next four to six weeks under state law.

The names of the officers have not been released.

"The public will be able to see what the officers saw. The investigation will speak for itself. The facts will speak for themselves," Tindall said at the news conference.

According to KTVU, Tovar’s arrest came after a 10-month investigation but most recently he was the prime suspect in the murder of a 35-year old man from San Benito County in early January who was found dead in Gilroy. 

Tovar was also apparently involved in a shooting a couple of days before for the killing, and an attack that almost became deadly two days after the killing.

He’s also been known in the past to use his car to hit police cars to evade officers.

Rosie Chavez, with activist group Silicon Valley De-Bug, told KGO that regardless of Tovar's record, his death was unjustified.

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

Chavez also claims that officers arrived at the complex in plain clothes and in unmarked vehicles and lacked the capability and intention to de-escalate the situation.

Chavez told KTVU, "I know this because they did the same thing with my nephew who was killed by SJPD in 2017. He was unarmed and complying with his hands up."

The case is still under investigation.

Previously: Homicide suspect shot and killed by San Jose police

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