February 18, 2004 - San Jose Mercury News (CA)

Wrong Man Shot, Killed

Wanted Parolee Found Later in S.J., Cops Say

By Crystal Carreon and Sandra Gonzales, Mercury News

A state drug agent shot and killed a man after a chase through downtown San Jose on Tuesday, but later discovered the man wasn't the suspected parole violator he had been searching for, San Jose police said.

State authorities later arrested David Gonzales, the man they were looking for, just a few blocks away.

Authorities did not release the victim's name Tuesday, but relatives identified him as Rodolfo Cardenas, a construction worker who had recently separated from his wife.

The state Department of Justice confirmed a Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement agent was involved in the shooting near a retirement home on North Fourth Street. San Jose police said they received a 1:23 p.m. call of shots being fired.

Hallye Jordan, a spokeswoman for state Attorney General Bill Lockyer, did not identify the agent involved, and would not discuss the details of the shooting Tuesday. She said the Justice Department would be doing a concurrent investigation, along with the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office and the San Jose Police Department.

Police said Tuesday evening that the parolee agents were seeking was believed to be armed and dangerous.

The pursuit began on North 14th Street Tuesday afternoon.

Agents in unmarked cars searching the area saw a man fitting the description of the wanted parole violator, police said, and followed the man. When he realized he was being followed, the man abandoned his van on North Fourth Street and ran, according to police.

During the chase, the state agent fired several shots, hitting the man.

Police had said that the man had run red lights and possibly tossed a weapon out of his speeding minivan.

Police spokesman Sgt. Steve Dixon said it initially appeared the man had suffered a non-life-threatening wound to his buttocks, and he was taken to San Jose Medical Center for treatment. A few hours later, the department was notified that the man had died.

Police said that shortly after the shooting, drug agents and police returned to 14th Street and arrested Gonzales, the wanted man.

Tuesday night, Cardenas' niece lashed out at the agent who shot her uncle.

"It's so inhumane to treat a person like that," Juanita Villarreal said. "It's not right, it's ridiculous. How can you kill somebody if they're running from you? I don't have an uncle, my cousins don't have a father, all because of a mistake. They go around chasing and scaring people, and for what?"

Alfred Cardenas of Bakersfield said he believed his "baby brother" had an outstanding warrant for driving under the influence.

Several witnesses described seeing a man jump out of a light-colored minivan after it appeared he had been cornered on North Fourth Street, just south of East St. James Street. The man, described as wearing a black and white shirt, was seen running between a Victorian home and the Shires Memorial Center on North Fourth Street when "a couple of seconds later, you heard the shots go off -- pop, pop, pop -- and then a pause before a final shot," said Mike Miranda, a security guard who was standing across the street when the cars abruptly stopped. "It happened really fast."

Maria Jack was tending to two real estate clients down the street when she said she heard at least three gunshots. The former bank teller, who survived an armed robbery 20 years ago, immediately recognized the sound and shoved a rug under her door to prevent anyone from entering the business.

"It was traumatic to hear those shots," she said. "It's usually pretty quiet around here."

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