FREMONT — Police officials said Thursday the man an officer fatally shot in late August along a major city roadway was pointing a handgun at the officer and “motioning as if he was pulling the trigger.”
The shooting unfolded just seconds after Fremont Police Ofc. Jesse Hartman encountered 22-year-old Kevin Victor Johnston, of Hayward, on the dirt median along Auto Mall Parkway near Southlake Common, around 6:04 p.m. on Aug. 25.
Police say Johnston matched the description of a man who shot and critically wounded another man in a mobile home park about 45 minutes before the encounter with police occurred.
Some video of the incident was captured on Hartman’s in-car camera, but audio was not recorded “due to an equipment malfunction,” Acting Police Chief Sean Washington said during a press conference Thursday.
After Hartman, a plainclothes officer in an unmarked vehicle, spotted Johnston, Washignton said Hartman activated his car’s emergency lights and siren, exited his car, and identified himself as a police officer.
Johnston was shirtless and carrying a small stroller that appeared to have a white t-shirt in it.
Johnston “dropped the stroller, grabbed the white t-shirt from the seat, and raised it towards Ofc. Hartman in what appeared to be a shooting stance,” and “motioned as if he was firing a handgun at Ofc. Hartman,” Washington said Thursday morning during a press conference.
Washington said Johnston then “suddenly dove towards the stroller and again reached into the seat,” retrieved a handgun, and pointed it at Hartman, while “motioning as if he was pulling the trigger.”
Hartman “engaged the suspect and fired multiple rounds from his department-issued handgun, striking the suspect numerous times,” Washington said.
Police officers developed a plan to approach Johnston in a group to remove the gun from his hand. “Once the firearm was separated from the suspect, officers provided first aid at about 6:19 p.m.,” Washington said.
Paramedics pronounced Johnston deceased at 6:23 p.m., police said. Hartman was not injured.
While the incident is still being investigated, Washington said he’s confident “the officers acted in accordance with the law and our policies, so I think this is pretty clear cut that this was a justifiable shooting.”
Hartman was not wearing his body-worn camera at the time of the incident. Acting Captain Eric Tang said Hartman was coming from an investigation in another city and had his body-worn camera in a charging dock in his car.
Hartman responded to the call “in an investigative role to help, and then happened to see the suspect right when the sergeant was putting out the description, so he didn’t have a chance to put his body camera on,” Tang said.
By activating his emergency lights and siren, Hartman triggered the in-car camera to begin recording, police said.
The audio was not captured on Hartman’s in-car camera system because “the microphone was bad,” Tang said Thursday, and said it has since been replaced.
The man who was shot in the mobile home park is still in the hospital in critical condition with “life-threatening injuries,” Washington said.
That shooting was reported to police around 5:19 p.m. on Aug. 25 by a woman who called 911, and frantically told a dispatcher a man had been shot in the head on Winnipeg Terrace in the Southlake Mobile Home Park.
Around 5:24 p.m., officers arrived and found a man with a gunshot wound who was taken by ambulance to a hospital. Police were able to identify the suspected shooter in part by viewing a private home surveillance camera that captured Johnston, walking with a severe limp, as he left a backyard and exited toward Auto Mall.
Police said it’s still not clear what motivated the first shooting, and said Johnston appeared to have stolen the victim’s car.
Tang said that Johnston, the man he is suspected of shooting, and the woman who called 911 to report the first shooting, “are all associated to one another,” and had arrived at the mobile home park together that day.
Washington said the gun Johnston used during the incident was painted white, and had Glock brand markings. Washington said the gun had a serial number on it, but there has not been any record of ownership found yet.
It was missing a magazine when police took it from Johnston’s hand, though detectives found a magazine near the first shooting victim’s stolen car, and Washington said it was the magazine missing from the gun.
Washington and Tang both said they believe Johnston may have fired one round at Hartman during the incident, as a spent bullet casing was found inside the gun’s chamber. However, no bullet was recovered at the scene where Hartman encountered Johnston.
Tang said an expended casing was found at the scene of the first shooting, and no other shootings were reported until the encounter between Hartman and Johnston occurred.
“We believe that he actually shot a round at the officer, so that would account for the spent casing in the chamber of the gun,” Washington said.
“We’ll never know for sure, sometimes when there’s a shootout, you don’t hear the other round coming at you,” Tang said.
Police said Johnston had a warrant out for his arrest for several felonies, including carjacking, being a felon in possession of a firearm, carrying a loaded firearm in public, and possession of a controlled substance while armed, among others.
The shooting on Aug. 25 marked the fourth shooting by Fremont police this year, three of which have been fatal.