​For release on October 16, 2012

Jeff Rosen District Attorney


The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office has determined that a San Jose police officer was legally justified when late last year he shot and killed a drug-intoxicated San Jose man who shot up his brother’s car, waved his gun at passing motorists and finally aimed his handgun at another officer.

Ballistics tests by the District Attorney’s Crime Lab and an investigation later showed that 23-year-old Ricardo Moreno had used the same weapon to murder two fellow San Jose State students 48 hours before his own death.

“Officer Harwell’s use of deadly force was in response to an apparent and immediate threat of bodily injury or death to himself and Officer (George) Constantin,’’ concluded a 21-page District Attorney’s report. “His conduct is therefore justifiable in the defense of himself and others, and no criminal liability attaches to him.” The report is being sent as part of this News Release and will be posted to the District Attorney’s Website at  www.santaclara-da.org

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 where there is a reasonable need to protect themselves or others from an apparent, imminent threat of death or great bodily injury.

On Oct. 10, 2011, Officer Jeff Harwell responded to the corner of Hillsdale and Narvaez avenues in San Jose on a report that gunshots had been fired and that a man was brandishing a weapon.

Harwell and Officer Constantin, who was already on the scene, saw Moreno – clad only in bloody shorts - holding the gun. Constantin ordered Moreno to drop his weapon. Moreno did not at first comply. Eventually, Moreno lay down on the ground, placing the gun within his reach. Harwell told Moreno to move his hands away from the gun. Moreno did not comply. Instead, Moreno grabbed the weapon, used both hands to ratchet the slide – prepping it to fire – and aimed the firearm at Officer Constantin. Harwell fired his weapon five or six times at Moreno. Moreno was pronounced dead at the scene. Toxicology tests showed that Moreno had an extremely high level of cocaine in his system, which may have caused an episode of psychosis during his altercation with police.

Tests on Moreno’s .45 caliber pistol showed that it had been used to fire bullets found at the downtown San Jose scene of the Oct. 8, 2011 homicides of San Jose State students Eric Otokawa and Kristina Pandula. Investigators concluded that Moreno shot and killed the students with the same gun he used to aim at the officer. Investigators have not determined Moreno’s motive in the murders.

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