SAN JOSE — An undercover San Jose police officer has been cleared of criminal liability after he shot and killed Demetrius Stanley on Memorial Day night after Stanley approached his unmarked SUV with a gun in his hand, seemingly unaware he was confronting police who were conducting surveillance on him.

A report released Thursday from the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office identified Anthony Baza as the officer who shot Stanley as he opened the vehicle door.

Stanley’s death drew a rapid, passionate response from family members, community leaders and activists who galvanized around the idea that Stanley believed he was protecting his family — his girlfriend, grandmother and father were home — when he went to the car, not attacking police. His death spawned a march of more than 100 people the following night from City Hall to the police department, during which they shut down Highway 87.

The DA’s report included a departure from the initial police narrative given two days after the shooting, which described the confrontation as escalating so quickly that the Baza did not have time to identify himself as a police officer. In the new report, prosecutors cite surveillance video as showing Baza saying, “Get the f*** out of here, police!” almost simultaneously with the moment he fired four shots at Stanley, hitting him twice.

“As soon as Stanley opened the car door, Officer Baza was staring down the barrel of a loaded semiautomatic handgun,” Deputy District Attorney Rob Baker wrote in the report. “In that split second, Officer Baza had no other reasonable choice than to shoot Stanley to save his own life.”

Baza and a second officer, Hans Jorgenson — both working under the SJPD covert response unit — were staking out Stanley’s home in connection with an investigation in which Stanley was suspected of robbing a teenager of a replica gun in March, and after police say they found Stanley carrying a loaded handgun during a traffic stop later that month. The May 31 surveillance, police and prosecutors said, was to set up an arrest later in the week.

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Excerpts of nearby home-security footage, which police released two days after the shooting, shows a short and edited view of the residential street as Stanley left his house on Tofts Drive in North San Jose with a handgun and doubled back next to Baza’s undercover police vehicle.

The footage shows another undercover officer, Jorgenson clad in shorts, jogging down the street past Stanley’s house then veering off to avoid a confrontation. According the prosecutors’ report Thursday, Jorgenson had moments earlier been taking pictures of vehicles in the driveway.

San Jose: DA clears officer in San Jose police shooting of
Demetrius Stanley 2
Surveillance video released Wednesday, June 3, 2021 by San Jose Police purportedly shows Demetrius Stanley wielding a handgun before an officer shot and killed him on Monday, May 31, 2021. (Courtesy of San Jose Police) 

The video then cuts to a view of Stanley walking down the deserted sidewalk, shirtless and barefoot and holding what appears to be a gun, as he glances at parked cars. He walks slowly into the street — the gun pointed down — and passes a parked SUV that police have since identified as an unmarked vehicle with a second undercover officer inside.

As he walks by the SUV, Stanley appears to notice someone sitting inside the vehicle and doubles back. Although the video does not show who opens the door, he appears to reach out with his left hand, while his right hand remains pointing downward. The door opens, at which point Stanley springs back and raises his right hand with the gun, pointing toward the vehicle. The video then cut off, moments before Stanley was shot.

Stanley’s family and supporters have seized on how the officers did not clearly announce themselves as police officers to Stanley. Police have also previously said the officers did not have body cameras because they intended to only conduct surveillance and confirm Stanley’s residence.

Stanley’s death marked the second fatal police shooting of the year by San Jose police. On Jan. 21, three undercover officers shot and killed 27-year-old David Tovar Jr. in the courtyard of an apartment complex in the city’s east foothills.

Tovar was unarmed and had been sought by authorities in connection with a homicide in Gilroy and other violent attacks in South Santa Clara County. Tovar’s family have filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the city; the DA’s formal report on that shooting has not been completed.

Check back later for updates to this story.