First San Jose Police Officer Killed in Line of Duty in 14 Years

San Jose (Michael / Wikimedia Commons)
Michael / Wikimedia Commons

The first San Jose police officer to die in the line of duty in 14 years was shot to death on Tuesday night when he responded to a call at 6:48 p.m. from a woman claiming a man was drunk, depressed and could injure others.

As officer Michael Johnson, along with other officers, neared the apartment building, a man identified as Scott Dunham, 57, exited his apartment onto the balcony and fired at them, striking Johnson, according to news reports. In the ensuing gunfire, another police officer reported that Dunham might have been hit, and officers informed dispatchers that Dunham might have one or two handguns.

Dispatchers then reportedly ordered the area secured and called for help; homes in the area were evacuated, while armored vehicles and a helicopter arrived among the officers from the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, Santa Clara and Sunnyvale police, and the California Highway Patrol, according to the San Jose Mercury News. While the manhunt intensified, police stayed in contact with Dunham’s wife, who was not in the apartment, according to the Los Angeles Times.

At roughly 11 p.m., the police, believing Dunham was still in his apartment, moved toward it. By 1:30 a.m. they used explosives to break into the apartment, then used a robot with a camera to search the premises. Dunham was found dead by 3:30 a.m., again according to news reports.

Johnson, a 14-year veteran of the force, was the 12th San Jose officer killed since the department was founded in 1849.

Police spokesman Officer Albert Morales stated, “Officers are obviously crying, grieving, they will obviously do so for some time. Our hearts, our prayers go out with the family of Michael, our brother. This is a very difficult time right now. Rest assured we’ll keep him in our memories as we go out there and continue to do the job we loved to do and I’m sure that he loved to do.”

The last San Jose officer killed in the line of duty, Jeffrey Fontana, was shot to death on October 28, 2001 during a high-risk vehicle stop; he and Johnson were reportedly in the same police academy class.

Mayor Sam Liccardo said, “This is San Jose’s darkest hour. This strikes the heart of all of us in San Jose and throughout the region.” The Sonoma Sheriff’s Department tweeted, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of San Jose PD at the traffic loss of a fellow peace officer.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.