Mark Gutierrez, 22, of San Jose, was released Friday after prosecutors determined from surveillance video that the security guard, Ryan Viri, was holding a folding knife while coming after him, Assistant District Attorney Marc Buller said.
"Based on the evidence presented to us, Mr. Gutierrez was acting in self-defense when he stabbed Mr. Viri," Buller said.
According to San Jose police, officers responded to a call at 1:20 a.m. Wednesday about a stabbing in the area of Santa Clara and First streets and found the 26-year-old Viri mortally injured with at least one stab wound.
Viri had been off-duty from his job as a bouncer at Johnny V's, a bar at 31 E. Santa Clara St., near where Viri was stabbed, the bar's owner Johnny Van Wyk said.
Buller said Gutierrez had been asked to leave Johnny V's and agreed, then walked about three-quarters of a block away while holding a container of knives he used for work as a cook or chef.
Surveillance video obtained by prosecutors that was shot by a camera at the entrance to Johnny V's showed Viri "exiting the bar with a knife in his hand," Buller said.
Viri is seen on surveillance footage from other businesses walking briskly down Santa Clara Street toward Gutierrez, catching up with him "and that is when Mr. Viri is stabbed," Buller said.
Gutierrez used one of the cooking knives he was carrying to fatally stab Viri in the throat, Buller said.
The cook "had reason to believe his life was in jeopardy" and so was legally entitled to defend himself, Buller said.
Gutierrez did attempt to flee but was captured quickly by San Jose police who had arrived "in seconds" after Viri had fallen, according to Buller.
"He was scared, he ran," Buller said. "That happens."
It appeared from the video that Viri, who was 6 feet 4 inches tall, was confronting Gutierrez, who is about 5 feet 9 or 5 feet 10 inches tall, Buller said.
"It's clear he's there with a knife," Buller said. "We don't know why he went after him."
Other employees at Johnny V's who were questioned after the stabbing said that they had been satisfied that Gutierrez left the bar after they asked him to, Buller said.
Gutierrez had initially entered the cocktail lounge after finishing work and had a folding container that zips open and lays flat and contained a selection of cooking knives, Buller said.
He then checked it in with the bar, which put it away for him and gave it back when he was asked to leave, the prosecutor said.
Van Wyk said he believes that the two men knew each other while working together recently at a downtown restaurant.
"I don't know what to think," Van Wyk said. "My head is spinning right now."
"If he (Viri) was going at him with a knife, OK," Van Wyk said. "At the end of the day, I've lost a friend."