For release on May 24, 2016
Sean Webby, Public Communications Officer
DA REPORT: PALO ALTO OFFICERS LAWFULLY SHOT MENTALLY ILL MAN DURING KNIFE ATTACK Two Palo Alto police officers late last year lawfully shot and killed a mentally ill man who charged at them with a knife, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office has determined.
William Raff, 31, made a 911 call falsely reporting that another resident of his mental health home was threatening to hurt people. When officers arrived, Raff ignored their orders to drop the weapon and charged at one of them. He came within inches of one officer before he was stopped.
Wrote prosecutor Charles Gillingham in the 31-page public report: “The totality of the evidence leads only to the conclusion that William Raff was intent on dying at the hands of police officers on December 25, 2015. William Raff called 911 that night to create a fake emergency and draw an armed response from the police. Raff then committed suicide by attacking the officers, who shot him in self-defense.”
Along with the report, the District Attorney’s Office has released video footage of the incident along with this disclaimer: “This video is graphic and viewer discretion is advised. The District Attorney’s Office tries to balance the values of privacy and transparency. Finding the right balance is important to maintain and build public trust in the criminal justice system. We are releasing this video because it was relevant to our decision.” The District Attorney’s Office investigates all fatal law enforcement encounters to determine if the lethal force was legal. By law, officers are allowed to use deadly force when they or others are faced with imminent danger.
On the night of December 25, 2015, Raff called emergency 911 dispatch to report that someone named “Andre Seal” was threatening to harm people at La Selva House on Forest Avenue. Three officers arrived. Raff ran out of the home with a knife in his hand. Multiple witnesses heard the officers command him to drop the knife. Raff screamed and charged. One officer shot him with a Taser. The other two officers – Nicolas Enberg and Zachary Wicht - fired their weapons.
An investigation discovered that Raff – who had been diagnosed with a serious mental illness - had tried to commit suicide at least twice before, once by stabbing himself with a knife. # # #