SAN JOSE, Calif. (KTVU) - San Jose's Police Chief Thursday revealed officers mistakenly chased the wrong car but say the driver's actions justify his department's use of force in a deadly Christmas Day officer-involved shooting that ended with 24-year-old Jenny Vasquez of San Jose dead.
"I'm saddened to be here this afternoon to describe a tragic event that occurred early Christmas morning. My sincere condolences to the Vasquez family for their loss," said San Jose Police Chief Eddie Garcia.
Then, Chief Garcia went on to describe what led up to officers opening fire on the car around 2:30 a.m. Christmas morning at Fruitdale and Leigh Avenues.
Police say the incident started while they were investigating a shooting at Story Road and Clemence Avenue and the shooter was said to be driving a white car.
"The first arriving officer was flagged down by a citizen who pointed Southbound on Clemence Avenue at a white vehicle leaving the scene, indicating to the officer it was the suspect vehicle," said Chief Garcia.
Police started following a White Toyota Camry driven by Vasquez, a car police say was registered as stolen.
Vasquez's family disputes that and says she was driving a friend's car.
Police say Vasquez led them on a high-speed 7-minute long chase through San Jose, which ultimately ended when she crashed the car into a chain-link fence at Fruitdale and Leigh avenues.
Chief Garcia says she did not obey officers orders, and pointed the car toward an empty patrol car where officers were nearby.
"The suspect driver then rammed the patrol car with the Toyota using it as a deadly weapon and causing 4 officers to fire in an attempt to stop the driver," said Chief Garcia.
Vasquez was shot and died at the scene.
Another woman in the car, her friend Linda Carmona-Bruno, was injured. Chief Garcia says it turned out Vasquez and the car had nothing to do with the initial shooting.
"Had the deceased not been driving a stolen vehicle, had not led police on a dangerous high-speed chase, crashed the vehicle and did not attempt to get away at all costs, ramming officers and endangering their lives, this tragedy would not have occurred on Christmas morning," said Garcia.
After the press conference, Vasquez's upset parents met with the Chief and questioned the use of force against two women.
"She feels the way it was dealt with wasn't right. There probably was a better way it could have been dealt with the San Jose Police department," said Luis Rueda, a cousin who translated for Vasquez's Spanish-speaking mother Maria Elena.
The District Attorney and the San Jose Police homicide unit are conducting a joint investigation which will also be monitored by the Independent Police Auditor, SJPD Internal Affairs, and City Attorney's office.
The four officers are on routine, paid administrative leave during the investigation. The family Thursday released a list of demands including the release of body-camera footage from the police officers.
Chief Garcia said the officers' cameras were rolling but that the footage would be released after the District Attorney's investigation per that department's protocol.