VIDEO: California Police Shooting of Axe-Wielding Man Deemed Justified

California prosecutors have determined that the fatal shooting of Thompson Nguyen near a San Jose power plant was a justified homicide.

The shooting occurred back on January 9, 2018, and it wasn’t Nguyen’s first encounter with law enforcement. Previously, police had been called to his home. At that time, he was carrying a knife around the house (to protect his family from aliens, according to the investigative report), but family members asked the police to leave because they didn’t want Nguyen to get shot. Nguyen had also been placed on a 5150 psychiatric hold in September 2017 after walking into traffic and yelling his girlfriend’s name. At that time, he was diagnosed with psychosis, but according to his family, he may never have received any medication.

Then, in January, Nguyen took amphetamines and went to a Calpine-operated plant on Metcalf road. In his backpack, he had several knives, handcuffs, a flashlight, pepper spray and a fake police badge. Additionally, in his vehicle, he had three poles, a sword, seven knives, a nun chuck, a GoPro camera and the two journals. When he encountered police, he had an axe in his raised hand. Police beseeched Nguyen repeatedly to comply with them, saying they didn’t want to shoot, but he ignored those requests.

Here is footage of the key moments (and below that is the full 10-minute video):

In the report that confirmed the justification of this shooting, Deputy District Attorney David Boyd wrote, “Any reasonable officer would conclude that Nguyen, whether as a result of a mental health issue or not, had decided that he was going to die that day and that if he had to attack an officer with a weapon to make it happen, he was going to do so.”

 

comments

  1. avatar Cucamonga Jeff says:

    It’s highly unfortunate for all parties involved. I wouldn’t want to get axed by a crazy dude just a much as I wouldn’t wanna be axed by a “sane” person.

    1. avatar B.D. says:

      sane people don’t “axe” anyone.

      1. avatar Fergus says:

        Have you ever been audited or had dental treatments from a dentist that is lusting after a Rolls Royce?

  2. avatar little horn says:

    LUMBERJACKLIVESMATTER

      1. avatar PaulD says:

        Beat me to it.

  3. avatar Leighton Cavendish says:

    He just wanted to axe the officer a question…right?

  4. avatar RMS1911 says:

    Two on one with the two with pepper spray , tasers and collapsible batons vs. an axe.
    Bet they had bean bags for the shotgun.
    There was a time they would have gotten on either side of him while one distracted the other would tackle and subdue him.
    But that was back when they hired men to police.

    1. avatar JasonM says:

      Have you ever been hit in the head with an axe? I’m guessing, “no”, because you don’t appear to be dead or have severe brain damage. By the time they fired, they he was close enough to easily kill one of them. They tried to deescalate, they called in for support from less lethal, they fired less lethal weapons at him that failed.

      EDIT: I reread your comment…maybe you have been hit in the head with an axe.

    2. avatar DaveDetroit says:

      “Back in the day” police didn’t have to worry so much about blood born illnesses that can now be transmitted rather easily. I’m sure that legally there’s less risk in shooting the BG within their guidelines than in subduing them. I appreciate the LEOs stepping up to serve. I have no idea why there are still people willing to do so.

    3. avatar drunkEODguy says:

      LOL, it never fails here on TTAG, no matter how clear cut the popo did wrong some how. Shit’s as bad as the BLM dindunuffin crowd.

      1. avatar jwm says:

        It’s the same people. BLM, antifa, fascist, cop haters, all the same. They want to act out but they fear the cops.

    4. avatar New Continental Army says:

      Flat out bullshit. You should actually do some research into what policing was like “back in the day”, before all the red tape and body cameras. All you anti cop bullshitters here who spout about the “golden age of policing” when police never shot any body because they only hired big tough Irish brutes who could man handle anyone are flat out full of it. There wasn’t a time like that, ever. You know what would be different about this now as opposed to the 1950s? There would be no body camera, you’d never hear about it, and the police probably wouldn’t have let him get that close or even given him an “clear and concise command”. They simply would’ve shot the bastard and tossed him the back of a pick up and taken him to the morgue. Believe me, you anti cop types DO NOT want police to act how they acted “back in the day”. You think they’re bad now? Ha.

      1. avatar Hannibal says:

        Yep. People must get their idea of the ‘good old days’ from Andy Griffin or other feel-good shows because that ain’t what it was like. You know how people claim that cops have drop guns and use phone books on people now? I happen to think it’s MOSTLY bs but the thing is… back then, they wouldn’t even need to do such things. If the cops wanted to beat you up, they did it. Didn’t need to worry about leaving bruises, the judge would shake his head and wonder why you pissed off the nice officer. If the cops felt the need to shoot you, they did. Good luck finding cops getting indicted for such a thing. In fact, one of the seminal cases involving use of force (TN v. Garner) was all about a cop shooting a young burglar in the back as he was running away.

        It’s a good way to weed out people who have no idea what they’re talking about, though.

    5. avatar Ranger Rick says:

      Given that your experience level in these matters consists of TV cop shows we’ll forgive your stupidity this time.

    6. avatar Hannibal says:

      “Two on one with the two with pepper spray…”
      -uh, axe wins. Easily. Pepper spray ain’t shit.
      “Bet they had bean bags for the shotgun.”
      -I’d bet against you on that one.
      “blah blah blah I could take him out with one hard look and a hand tied behind my back…”
      -Do it, chief. Go charge at a guy with an axe who is suicidal, mentally disturbed, and possibly on serious drugs. You might even survive. Although note that if you’re a cop in Seattle and you tackle someone who is brandishing an edged weapon you could still be in trouble for ‘escalating’ the scenario.

      1. avatar JB says:

        Let the TTAG experts handle it lol. Most of them have zero experience with a taser and they think it’s Gandalf’s magic stick.

    7. avatar Fergus says:

      If the police are looking for men, you can rest assured your metrosexual credentials will disqualify you. What an idiot.. Go take your crayons and go to your safe space and tell us how “real men” handle a dangerous hut job.

  5. avatar GunTotinDem says:

    Lets see if they Van dyke the guy

  6. avatar Joe in San Antonio says:

    It’s unfortunate but in the moment of crisis, motive(intent) matters less and actions matter more. After an incident we can try to reason why but in the moment you only have action based off observation (see OODA loop). Also it seems like some of our armed breathren stop a mass shooting.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/25/us/louisville-kroger-shooting.html

  7. avatar GS650G says:

    Not a good idea to approach armed men with a raised axe.
    He was obviously mentally ill but not physically disabled. He was capable of hurting others.

  8. avatar RGP says:

    “In his backpack, he had several knives, handcuffs, a flashlight, pepper spray and a fake police badge. Additionally, in his vehicle, he had three poles, a sword, seven knives, a nun chuck, a GoPro camera and the two journals.”

    Sounds like he was going on a date with somebody he met online.

  9. avatar Ralph says:

    Cops shoot a man wielding an axe and are praised. Store owner shoots man wielding a hatchet and is indicted.

    What lesson can we learn from this? Obviously, you can shoot a man who has an axe but not a man who has a hatchet.

    1. avatar Matthew says:

      Facts are that the hatchet man was attempting to flee while the shooter held on to him…axe man was continually advancing toward the shooters.

      Are you saying both shoots were the same?

      1. avatar EWTHeckman says:

        Looking at the video, he was in the process of walking past the closest officer when they shot him. He was also right up against the cargo container, which was as far away from them as he could get.

        It may have eventually resulted in shooting him anyway, since “suicide by cop” was clearly on his mind. But hugging a wall to walk past the police doesn’t strike me as an active threat, merely a potential one.

        This one definitely makes me uneasy.

        1. avatar Matthew says:

          Axe-man was walking from: further away from the officers to: closer to the officers. And the first officer (closest to the shipping container) appeared to be within five feet of the container. So to say he was ONLY walking past the officers is to completely ignore the fact that a man in some kind of psychotic episode, carrying swords, an axe, and many other potential weapons was deliberately coming within FIVE FEET of the officer.

          Any reasonable person would have responded the same way IF they were in that officer’s situation. To paint any other picture is dishonest in my opinion.

        2. avatar EWTHeckman says:

          Watch the video again. He had already gotten as close as he was going to get and was facing and walking past him when they opened fire.

          Like I said, merely a potential threat, not an active one. If any one of us mere “citizens” shot someone who was not an active threat, we would be in jail.

        3. avatar Matthew says:

          My apologies, just re-read the article and saw that the swords and other weapons were in his car or in his backpack. Other points still stand unless corrected.

      2. avatar Huntmaster says:

        Either you didn’t look at the video or you think we didn’t and you can put one over on us. He wasn’t advancing on the officers, he was trying to get around them and keeping his distance between him and them. Unlike the shopkeeper, the police officers were heavily armed, including tasers and mace, had plenty of backup, plenty of space, and bullet proof (hatchet resistant) vests . And NO. Nobody is saying both shoots were the same. But like our recently deceased shoplifter, he too refused to drop the weapon. The officers in this case had options the shopkeeper did not. They chose not to use them.

        1. avatar Matthew says:

          I’m looking at the shorter video above. They didn’t use other options, true. But they had called for non-lethal backup. As far as I know from the shorter video, those two officers were on their own at that moment.

          I don’t think it’s fair to expect them to try a taser when the guy is wearing multiple layers of clothing AND is having a psychiatric episode. Both of those conditions are contraindications for taser use.

          I also don’t think it’s fair to expect them to use batons when the guy is armed with an axe and swords. That’s possibly suicidal on their part.

          As far as I can tell, he was advancing to within five feet of the officers carrying multiple deadly weapons. They were stopped, he continued to approach. They waited until he was very close to fire, continually verbally warning him.

          Could they have retreated? I don’t see why not honestly. Did they have other not lethal options that would have been guaranteed to be effective when they were on their own? I don’t know, but I doubt it based on my experience responding with police to emergency situations.

        2. avatar EWTHeckman says:

          Watch the longer one. It makes the situation much clearer.

        3. avatar Matthew says:

          My apologies, just saw that the sword was in his car. Still, baton vs axe is not a viable option.

        4. avatar Matthew says:

          Took a look at the second video. It has the situation from both body cams, first the officer further from the man, then from the officer closest to the man. Granted, the first video makes it seem as if they fire when he’s already past them. But the second seems to show them fire when he’s still in front of them and still approaching. Isn’t the first shot fired at 9:20 in the video?

        5. avatar EWTHeckman says:

          The second video shows three points of view. The last one is from the officer closest to him. That is where it’s clear that he is already headed past when they open fire.

        6. avatar Matthew says:

          I don’t know. When I watch the very last viewpoint, I see and hear the first pistol shot while he is still “in front of” the closest officer. By in front of, I mean before he reached the closest approach he would make to the officer. I see one shot fired, then the man “pass” the officers, then three more pistol shots, then the rifle shots. I still believe the first shot was justified, the others? I don’t know.

          What I do know, is that based on the video evidence just right here, I wouldn’t convict the officers if the choice were mine. At the very beginning of the nine minute video, I think we have the justifiable reason why they didn’t retreat or wait for more backup…maybe even why we have multiple follow up shots. Don’t the police say that the man is heading toward where people are?

        7. avatar JH says:

          I doubt you understand how taser and mace work and what are the effects, also a body armor does not protect you from a blunt or sharp object striking your carotid or brachial artery. A cop’s job is not to wait til bleeding to death to go lethal. If you are not happy step in and show them how to handle it next time.

    2. avatar AL says:

      FL shop owner goes after a guy exiting his store after committing a theft, grabs him and shoots him while the guys presents NO THREAT whatsoever. TO make it even easier for the jury, the shop owner then looks absolutely clueless, it shows “oh my god what did I do” all over this video it’s terrible. Stand your ground in FL does NOT apply to property. You have no right to use lethal force for a theft (which was most likely a freaking MISDEMEANOR, unless the guy had two or more prior convictions or item was $300 or more…).

      Cops are dispatched to go handle John Doe going full tin foil mode. Cops do not have the option to let him go as he could be a serious threat to himself or others. By the way, cops cannot shoot people just because they stole an item in FL either.

      TRY AGAIN, you really don’t have a clue, get your facts straight.

    3. avatar Ralph oh Ralph you have no clue says:

      What an horrible comparison! Ralph is one of those who are “not fan of cops” (snowflake version of I cannot stand cops).

      So a guy going after a thieve who is exiting the store, and shooting him when the guy was not a threat in any way, shape or form, compares to this ^ video? Bwahahaha. Please tell me you do not carry a gun for SD? Do you have a good attorney, just in case? You need one, trust me. And please do yourself a favor if you have to use your gun, keep quiet when the cops show up, and keep quiet as much as possible in court.

  10. avatar Blackspike2710 says:

    So pretty much anyone that keeps a journal at this point is a complete wackjob.

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      Journalist = Wackjob. Sounds right to me.

    2. avatar Hannibal says:

      I think that’s been true since about 1950 for anyone over 13 years of age.

  11. avatar jwm says:

    Here in CA that was a good shoot. My only complaint is they don’t do a hundred of these a day. Eliminate the voting base of the dems and improve the quality of life here.

    1. avatar What on earth says:

      How is this kind of comment allowed here at TTAG? This jerk just called for cops to murder people based on political affiliation.

      1. avatar GS650G says:

        Their political affiliation isn’t the problem but a side effect.

      2. avatar SoCalJack says:

        I think I know where jwm is coming from; I am surrounded by dishonest/idiot liberals trying to take away my gun rights. We have it pretty bad here in CA. But wishing death on mentally ill Democrats threatening LEO’s life, that’s just not right. CA POTG need to be a good example of how to fight for our 2A rights.

      3. avatar jwm says:

        False outrage from a person suffering from TDS.

      4. avatar JH says:

        TTAG is the infowars of gun blogs. Trailer park IQ, and losers pretending to be the saviors of the nation.

  12. avatar Texican says:

    Pelvic shot perhaps a solution to challenges like these? Center mass, immobilizes typically, and there is a better chance of the person surviving. I’m surprised someone hasn’t come up with a net or bolo type round that is fired from a non-firearm platform to subdue people who are mentally unstable but don’t have a projectile weapon. It would have standoff capability and other officers could protect the officer employing this less lethal option. Another option would be riot shields in a phalanx of sorts to herd him or get him on the ground, pin him, and cuff him. Thoughts?

    1. avatar New Continental Army says:

      Not really doable in real life. To make a “phalanx” work you’d have to get a dozen officers there and fast, it just isn’t a realistic possibility. Now a net or bolo type weapon shot out of a 40mm tube is an interesting idea, not so sure how well it would work in real life though.

      1. avatar Texican says:

        thenetgunstore.com seems to be a start in the right direction. Probably needs to be beefed up a bit.

        1. avatar Texican says:

          The can cannon from X products is also an option. They just need to come up with the projectile which they say is coming.

    2. avatar Dave Mitchell says:

      Hatchets and axes can be projectile weapons.
      I was running a concrete foundation crew many moons ago.
      After having the usual butt sniffing and chest thumping dance the lead dog challenged me to throwing hatchets contest.
      He started, hatchet throw was good, I grab a full size axe.
      We got along just fine after that.
      Not much of anything can not be used as a projectile.
      Pelvic shot, phalanx, bolos or net, you go first.

  13. avatar Texican says:

    Good point! Just have to add a shield to the projectile launcher.

  14. avatar could have been handled better... says:

    Damn, they lit him up as he was walking past, and then away. What a shame. This is the exact type scenario less than lethal options are made for.

    A family has to plan a funeral, and those two cops are probably going to get promoted.

    1. avatar GS650G says:

      One less nut job armed with edged weapons for the rest of us to worry about.
      The ass wipe in Florida had 37 visits from cops until he killed 14 people in his high school.
      People who are nuts and protected by family from institutional commitment offer apologies when their loved one kills people.
      Better for them to plan a funeral than me.

      1. avatar South End Mavericks says:

        Haha you sound like the type of person that just can’t wait to kill someone with their ccw. There seems to be lots of those hung ho, shoot first ask later types on this site. Weak, overweight, dorks that think shooting is the answer to everything.

        1. avatar New Continental Army says:

          And you sound like the kind of liberal moron that projects their own inadequacies on others.

    2. avatar New Continental Army says:

      Well go become a cop then and show us how it’s done then mr billy badass.

    3. avatar Jeffffffff says:

      Let me give you my 2 cents as a cop. Less lethal is an option, only with a partner having the lethal option ready, because it takes a very small amount of time for a determined subject to rush and attack you. Also, you have to understand taser are far from being 100% efficient. It is a 5s cycle and then you are good to go, that’s assuming the probes deployed far enough to begin with, had good penetration (usually not a concern unless wearing body armor, thick leather jacket, etc). You can find videos of cops using their taser or ASP (baton) over and over again with no positive results. In this situation, you do not want to wait to be bleeding like a pig to go lethal.

  15. avatar FedUp says:

    Suicide.
    He approached them quickly and yelled “kill me”.

    While it didn’t look like he was attacking, once you let him get much closer you don’t have many options left if he gets tired of waiting for you to shoot him and starts swinging that axe.

    I’m quickly gaining respect for the jackasses who blow their own brains out with range rental guns. At least they pulled the trigger themselves and didn’t make somebody else do their dirty work for them.

  16. avatar Jeffffffff says:

    The mentally ill are a serious concern in our profession. We have to do our best to protect and serve people, including the mentally ill and folks having a serious crisis. Speaking with some experience, it can be very very challenging and sometimes there are no good decision. Suicide by cop is another sh***y one. I can tell you there are a lot people suffering from substance abuse, ptsd, mental illnesses, etc.
    “Paranormal” things are also something I have dealt with as a cop. Laugh all you want, I was not a “believer” until I had to deal with a couple of bizarre things and people.
    I feel sorry for this guy’s family. Mental illness, depression, suicide…suck.

    1. avatar B.D. says:

      “paranormal things” would put a skid mark on my undies.

      I did some breach bang clear in the army, but never experienced some creepy horror movie stuff. I couldn’t imagine trying to clear a location and finding some blair witch type shit.

    2. avatar EWTHeckman says:

      I feel sorry for this guy’s family. Mental illness, depression, suicide…suck.

      Amen! I really hate seeing those “no good option” situations.

  17. avatar B.D. says:

    I just hate how publicized all this crap gets now days. “guilty until proven innocent” is a joke in our system. People should have their toes chopped off for speeding, and deformed babies dropped off a cliff like the spartans did. Population control is inevitable, whether it’s 10 years from now, or 10,000…. it will happen. In our society, the poorest of poor are the most obese and the mentally ill are given more handouts than someone working 60+ hour weeks. Finally, another idiot removed from the earth and tax payer money saved instead of wasted on so called ‘rehabilitation’. I’ll never ride the ‘thin blue line’ dick like some bumper sticker tool bag, but this kind of shit is fine by me.

  18. avatar Andy Buckmichael says:

    All I can say is that the more scum cops that are killed the better off this country will be.

    1. avatar Obama's boyfriend says:

      Gee Andy how long were you in the pen and what crimes were you framed for?

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