New excessive force complaint against SJPD for shooting rubber bullets into apartment

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Tuesday, June 23, 2020
New excessive force complaint against SJPD for shooting rubber bullets into apartment
San Jose police fired rubber bullets and pepper spray projectiles into a 3rd floor apartment during a Black Lives Matter protests three weeks ago. That exclusive video was obtained by the ABC7 I-Team.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- San Jose police fired rubber bullets and pepper spray projectiles into a third floor apartment during Black Lives Matter protests three weeks ago. The exclusive video was obtained by the ABC7 I-Team.

The question is, was that an appropriate use of force by police or a civil rights violation?

RELATED: San Jose police tighten rules around use of rubber bullets amid protest backlash

Police around the country have come under fire for using rubber bullets and pepper spray on protesters, but today, San Jose police claim they had to fire into that window to protect themselves.

From the window of her third floor apartment across from San Jose City Hall, Shante Thomas had a clear view when Black Lives Matter protests erupted three weeks ago. The I-Team was there on the ground to witness police firing rubber bullets and tear gas.

Dan Noyes said in San Jose May 29, "I've gotten a pretty good dose of tear gas."

RELATED: Hundreds bring demand for an end to police brutality to SJ mayor's doorstep

As the protests stretched into the night of Saturday, May 30, Shante's friend and two teens joined her, to watch police battling protesters.

Shante Thomas: "They was bullying them, basically like they could be untouchable, like they could do what they want and nobody could do a damn thing about it."

Dan Noyes: "And you started to yell out the window?"

Shante Thomas: "I would start cussing them out, like y'all be leaving people alone, let them be, let them have a peaceful protest. They was doing it by having a peaceful protest."

She started a cell phone recording, as police shined flashlights at her.

On the recording, Thomas says, "I got you all recording, So what? I don't give a ___, I got you all recording."

The police trained their riot guns on her windows and fired.

Shante Thomas: "I ain't doing nothing. You all- (projectiles fired, glass breaks) Yo, gonna sue, you all gonna be sued. We ain't doing nothing wrong. Hey, don't be shooting in our house."

Friend: "We have kids in here."

Shante Thomas: "Augh, you dumb ____, I'm suing your asses."

Shante Thomas collected 13 projectiles from her apartment, rubber bullets and pepper spray pellets. She surveyed the damage, the broken windows and blinds, the gash in the wall, and retained attorney Sarah Marinho. She told the I-Team, "Shante Thomas was engaged in a protected activity, she was filming the police from her window."

San Jose Police Chief Eddie Garcia declined to be interviewed for this report, but his spokesman says someone was throwing bottles and other objects from that building, and police had to protect themselves.

Shante tells us she was homeless for years, and that she wouldn't do anything to risk losing her apartment.

Dan Noyes: "Were you throwing anything?"

Shante Thomas: "Hell no, I ain't that stupid, I ain't trying to lose this house. I got me a beautiful one bedroom house, I ain't trying to lose that. You crazy as hell. I had my phone in my hand and I don't have nothing, if I threw something, I would throw a TV at 'em, if I was going to throw something, but I didn't throw nothing at 'em."

The next day, a team from the mayor's office helped Shante cover her windows, and cleaned up glass in front of the building. In this email to the landlord, the mayor's senior policy adviser, Paul Pereira wrote, "All of the glass was window glass. None of it was glass with beer labels or the color of beer bottles. I would have to disagree with statements from people that said that they saw beer bottles being thrown."

RELATED: Man who trains San Jose police about bias injured by riot gun during protest

Mayor Sam Liccardo declined to be interviewed today, citing a tight schedule, but he has called for a ban on the use of rubber bullets.

"Do we really need these? Do we really want foam or rubber bullets to be used in the context in which you have a dense, crowded area?" Liccardo said of rubber bullets.

Late today, San Jose Police sent a statement that we're posting in full below, saying they have video from a police helicopter of bottles coming from that building. The I-Team has asked to see the video; they say it's going through the approval process.

SJPD Statement:

"We are actively seeking arrests in this incident involving at least two individuals who threw glass bottles and other hard objects at officers from elevated floors in the apartment complex at 235 E. Santa Clara Street.

SJPD air support was flying above during the incident and captured video evidence of the attack. Multiple bottles were thrown with one bottle shattering on the ground next to an officer peppering their foot and leg with shards of glass.

Officers responded to the ongoing assault by deploying 40mm foam batons and OC powder projectiles into the window at the individuals they could see attacking them. This was done to stop the ongoing attack and prevent further attacks.

Once the attacks stopped, officers attempted to identify the suspects and make arrests, but after encountering resistance in the apartment building, turned the case over to investigators who are pursuing the felony assault case. Glass and other hard objects were thrown at officers from the apartment building, both on Friday and Saturday.

This is an active and ongoing investigation. Anyone with information relating to this case is encouraged to contact the San Jose PD Assaults Unit at 408-277-4161.

Persons wishing to remain anonymous may call Crime Stoppers at 408-947-7867."

This incident is an example of how some individuals used extreme violence against the police during what should have been peaceful demonstrations and shared outrage in our streets following the killing of George Floyd by police officers.