SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — A felon with a rap sheet went on a chilling “quest to kill” San Jose Police Department officers, the police chief told reporters Tuesday. Noe Orlando Mendoza, 38, of San Jose, allegedly stalked officers around their own police station and followed marked patrol cars before he opened fire during a traffic stop and standoff.
After Mendoza shot an officer, surrendered, and was taken into custody Friday, he asked police if he had succeeded in killing any officers, Police Chief Anthony Mata said.
Mata held a news conference Tuesday to release more information about two shootings allegedly carried out by Mendoza that nearly cost officers their lives.
One officer was hit by two bullets — one struck his hip and the second struck his ballistic vest. “This is a chilling case. I am very grateful we did not lose any officers in these senseless attacks. Police place themselves between good and evil,” Mata said.
Mendoza’s “quest to kill” began around 8 p.m. Friday, Mata said. A vehicle that was similar to Mendoza’s vehicle was seen on the San Jose police station’s campus. At 8:40 p.m., Mendoza parked outside an SJPD substation at the airport in a police staff parking space. When an officer confronted him, Mendoza sped off.
Around 10:30 p.m., a rookie officer and a field training officer saw a white sedan run a red light on Story and King roads.
“Patrol officers made what critics of this profession would call a ‘routine car stop.’ Nothing we do is routine,” Mata said. The officers rapidly realized that they were targets of an “ambush-style attack,” he said.
Seconds after the officers pulled over the car, Mendoza stepped out and began firing a barrage of bullets. The SJPD patrol vehicle was struck several times, including by bullets that penetrated through its windshield.
The officers returned fire, striking the suspect’s car as he sped away. Officers with the department’s special operations unit, called the Mobile Emergency Response Group and Equipment Unit, found Mendoza hiding in a home’s backyard on Sinbad Avenue. A standoff ensued. Police used a drone to track Mendoza as he continued to hide and jump over fences into more backyards.
At one point during the standoff, Mendoza stood on top of a fence and shot a MERGE unit officer, Mata said.
MERGE unit officers never returned fire, followed their training and SJPD protocols, and demonstrated “extreme discipline and bravery not returning fire,” Mata said. “Our officers are highly trained and disciplined, especially our MERGE officers.”
The standoff ended when Mendoza ultimately surrendered and was taken into custody. The injured officer was rushed to a trauma center and is expected to recover.
Investigators said the weapon used to target officers was a privately-made ghost gun.
Mayor Matt Mahan said, “Someone was out there actively targeting our officers. Four of the last five officer-involved shootings were committed with ghost guns. This is a serious and disturbing trend.”
Mahan also pointed out that his city’s police force is severely understaffed, and recruiting more officers is one of his top priorities.
Mendoza has lived under “several” aliases while racking up a lengthy criminal history, the police chief said. His rap sheet spans from Oregon, to Arizona, to Los Angeles, Mata said, and includes more than a dozen counts of weapons and drug-related charges.
A reporter asked Mata how police can keep ghost guns out of the hands of career criminals. “I wish I had the answer. There are dangerous individuals out there.”
Mata commended the rookie officer’s actions during the traffic stop. “He reverted back to his training. That’s what kept him alive and his partner alive. We will keep checking in on him to make sure he’s doing OK,” the police chief said.
Friday’s violence targeting officers was a traumatic event for the entire police force, Mata said. The police chief is encouraging his officers to support each other emotionally and psychologically.
This breaking news story will be updated.