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San Jose officers cleared in fatal shooting of ill man

Officers did not use excessive force against a knife-wielding, mentally ill man when they shot him, a judge ruled

By Henry Lee
San Francisco Chronicle

SAN JOSE — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by the parents of a man who was shot and killed by San Jose police in 2009, saying officers did not use excessive force against the knife-wielding, mentally ill man.

Daniel Pham, 27, was shot and killed by police on May 10, 2009, after authorities said he charged at officers while armed with a knife at a home on the 900 block of Branbury Way.

Officers Brian Jeffrey and Matthew Blackerby, sent to the home to investigate reports of a stabbing, discovered that Pham had slashed his 29-year-old brother Brian Pham's throat, authorities said.

They found Daniel Pham in a fenced-in yard waving a knife at them and shot him 14 times when he ignored their orders to drop the knife, police said.

In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, Pham's parents, Vinh Huu Pham and Lan Thi Do, said officers improperly went into the yard without a warrant and needlessly killed their son, who suffered from mental illness.

City officials said officers acted properly during an emergency situation.

In a ruling Monday, U.S. District Judge Edward Davila in San Jose sided with the city, saying the officers had acted properly and did not violate the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches.

"The death of a civilian at the hands of law enforcement is tragic and regrettable," Davila wrote. But the city is not liable in this case, he said.

"The court finds that the gravity of the crime involved, the existence of a known potential victim to whom Mr. Pham had access and Mr. Pham's repeated failure to heed police warnings significantly outweigh the officers' entry into the house's fenced-in yard," the judge wrote.

Copyright 2013 the San Francisco Chronicle

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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