PALO ALTO, Calif. (KTVU) - Loved ones of 31-year-old William Raff said he was an innocent man in a fragile mental state. Palo Alto police officers shot and killed him outside a residential treatment home on Christmas night, after police said Raff charged at them with a knife.
Shawn Wallace remembers Raff, his close friend, as an incredible guy who was loved by many people. He said the Huntington Beach native was looking forward to hiking trips in the new year and a new home in Felton. The last thing Wallace ever thought would happen was Raff's encounter with police.
"I knew immediately that it wasn't handled in the best way," said Wallace. "It could have been handled. It's a complete shock."
Wallace said Raff had just checked himself into a residential treatment facility on Forest Avenue for what he called psychological challenges.
Police said around 9 p.m. on Christmas, Raff phoned in a false report to police. When officers got there, Raff confronted them, was jumping erratically on the lawn and waving a knife. They ordered him to drop the knife and then, according to police, without warning, he charged at them. Two officers fired their handguns and one officer fired a Taser. The encounter lasted 19 seconds.
"It was a remarkably fast event and it only ended the way it did because the suspect chose to sprint at the officers while waving a nine-inch metal knife," said Lt. Zach Perron of Palo Alto Police.
Police called it a table or kitchen knife.
"This is is so overboard," said Wallace. "There's no rationale behind that. I could understand if they are intimidated, why not shoot the legs, shoot the arms, tasers, pepper spray,"
Police recovered nine bullet casings and dash cam video, that they aren't releasing, that shows the officer's actions. Wallace said he wants the officers to be held accountable for Raff's death.
"I think whoever tased him probably had a better head on his shoulders," said Wallace. "I wished they would have followed that example."
The officers who shot Raff are on paid administrative leave. One officer has five years law enforcement experience, the other a year and half.
The case will now be turned over to the Santa Clara District Attorney's Office for review.