A veteran San Jose Police Department officer responding to a call about a suicidal man was shot and killed last night. Field training officer Michael Johnson was apparently approaching the apartment building when he was fired upon multiple times by the suspect from an apartment balcony.
The suspect, Scott Dunham, was thought to have been wounded in an exchange of gunfire with other officers, and his body was found dead this morning.
It was not immediately clear how Dunham had died, though police said he had suffered at least one gunshot wound. Police reported earlier that he may have been wounded during the exchange of gunfire that killed Johnson. Esquivel acknowledged the possibility that Dunham might have been dead for most of the standoff, as officers never made contact with him after the initial clash, and there was no subsequent gunfire.
San Jose officers were initially called at 6:48 p.m. Tuesday by a female family member who said that Dunham was intoxicated, despondent and possibly meant to harm himself or others, Esquivel said. As the officers approached the apartment building on Senter Road and spotted a person on a balcony, they were fired upon without warning.
Police dispatch recordings show that officers told dispatchers they believed the man they were searching for had one or two handguns in the apartment.
At one point, as they approach the apartment, an officer says “we have movement from the blinds at the apartment.”
An officer calmly reports that a male has stepped out onto the balcony, describing him as having gray hair, a gray mustache and a black T-shirt. Seconds later, the “shots fired” call can be heard, followed almost immediately by the “officer down” call.
It appears that Dunham’s body was found in the exact spot where he engaged officers from, suggesting that he died—either from police return fire or his own hand—in the initial exchange of gunfire.
Prior to the shooting, officers apparently made contact with Dunham’s wife, and stated in a conversation with dispatchers that they confirmed Dunham had two handguns inside the apartment, a 9mm pistol and a .22LR handgun. No mention was made prior to the shooting of the presence of a rifle.
It is unknown at this time why San Jose Police Chief Larry Esquivel told reporters that Dunham was armed with a “high-powered rifle” after Officer Johnson was shot, but before Dunham’s body was recovered and the scene was secured.
We’ve also been unable to find any news reports confirming what kind of firearms were found with Dunham’s body at this time.
Before the shootout, dispatchers told police that they had no records of any firearms being registered to Dunham, and that he was “on lots of meds,” for mental health issues including bi-polar disorder. This suggests that Dunham was possibly a prohibited person with an illegally-acquired firearm or firearms.
Rest in peace our fallen brother Michael Johnson #3718 pic.twitter.com/DQvpy3Smvz
— San Jose Police Dept (@SanJosePD) March 25, 2015
Officer Johnson was a 14-year veteran of the SJPD, and was engaged to be married.