SAN JOSE -- The Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office says a San Jose police officer was justified in using lethal force in the shooting death last year of a shirtless San Jose man who pointed a gun at another officer.
In a detailed report released Tuesday, District Attorney Jeff Rosen said Officer Jeff Harwell was defending himself and others when he shot and killed 23-year-old Ricardo Moreno on Oct. 12, 2011. Before encountering police, Moreno -- who tests later showed had a large amount of cocaine in his system -- shot up his brother's car and waved a gun at passing motorists near Hillsdale and Narvaez avenues in South San Jose.
"We have concluded that Officer Harwell acted lawfully when he discharged his firearm and caused the death of Ricardo Moreno," Supervising Deputy District Attorney Brian Welch wrote in the report.
Ballistic tests on the gun possessed by Moreno indicate it was the same weapon used in the killings of two former San Jose State students four days earlier near campus. The District Attorney's Office reported circumstantial evidence "proves beyond a reasonable doubt" that Moreno killed Eric Kenzo Otokawa, 21, and Kristina Lynn Pandula, 20.
On the morning Moreno died, officers responded to the corner of Hillsdale and Narvaez avenues on a report of gunshots and a man brandishing a weapon.
Officer George Constantin was the first to arrive and spotted Moreno, who matched the description of the person who
Constantin yelled out "Drop it" several times, according to the DA's report.
Constantin observed Moreno in a crouching position and "rack" the object with his left hand. Constantin recognized the sound as a preparation to fire a semi-automatic handgun.
As Constantin repositioned himself to obtain a better shooting angle, he heard three to four gunshots.
Those gunshots came from Harwell, who watched Moreno ignore his fellow officer's commands. Harwell said he saw Moreno first point the gun at Constantin and then sweep in his direction. Believing his life and Constantin's life was being threatened, he said he fired five to six shots at Moreno, according to the report.
The Santa Clara County Coroner's Office determined Moreno had been shot 10 times. The coroner also cited an "extremely high level of cocaine" in Moreno's system may have caused him to experience an episode of psychosis.
Moreno's brother told police Ricardo Moreno had recently returned to San Jose State as a full-time student. The brother said he had never seen Moreno with a gun.
The day before the shooting, the Moreno family celebrated a birthday dinner at the brother's house. On the morning of the shooting, the brother heard popping noises, followed by the sound of his car alarm. He did not see anything unusual outside and went back to bed.
The popping sound was gunshots being fired by Moreno into the brother's parked Nissan Sentra, according to the report. The brother woke up in the morning to police officers identifying themselves outside his house following the shooting.
Hugo Moreno's wife told police Ricardo had been depressed for about one year, and it may have stemmed from a breakup with a girlfriend.
Police located bullets in Ricardo Moreno's room at his brother's house. Inside Moreno's car, police found boxes for two .45 caliber pistols, an extended magazine for a .45 and an empty box of ammunition.
Investigators concluded Moreno shot and killed Otokawa and Pandula with the same gun he aimed at the officers. Investigators have not determined Moreno's motive in the murders.
The couple was found dead Oct. 8, with bullets to the back of their heads, at Otokawa's apartment on South Third Street in San Jose. Police previously said Moreno and Otokawa knew each other from buying and selling drugs. The day before Otokawa was killed, he received text messages from Moreno regarding an interest in getting together to do drugs, according to the report.
Police said Moreno, a senior psychology major, and Otokawa met in the dorms and "partied" together.
Contact Mark Gomez at 408-920-5869. Follow him on Twitter @MarkMgomez