U/ION CITY, Calif. (KTVU) – A man who was fatally shot by two Union City police officers on Monday night after he allegedly charged at them with a garden tool was identified by police as 29-year-old Hayward resident Vasilios Alexander
It started at about 10:20 Monday night when a woman called 911 from a home along Amy Place in Union City. “The resident reported that there was a stranger in her backyard, and he was banging on the rear slider that led into her master bedroom,” said Union City Police Captain Jared Rinetti.
Two officers arrived, checked on the woman and then found the intruder in the backyard.
“The suspect was armed with a garden-type tool. It resembled that of a full-size claw hammer. The officers saw the weapon, ordered the suspect to drop the weapon. The suspect chose to charge the officers, in an attempt to attack the officers.” Katsouras died at the scene.
The shooting was captured by the officers’ body cameras. Police aren’t releasing the footage but say it clearly shows Katsouras coming at the officers. Neighbors said they were shocked by the incident and didn’t realize what they heard was gunfire; they thought it could have been kids or maybe a fight in the park.
KTVU crime reporter Henry Lee showed one neighbor a picture of a tool similar to the one allegedly carried by the intruder, and the neighbor said, “I mean, this is not right, to kill someone because of this reason, not at all.” Neighbor Raj Sharma added, “they should warn him or shoot somewhere like in the leg or arm, not just to shoot him.”
However, police say they’re trained to eliminate the threat and that means shooting at center body mass and not in the extremities. Captain Rinetti adds, “many times the suspect dictates the decisions they make and sometimes they’re immediate. As in this case, it was immediate, and the officers had to protect themselves and they did so by stopping the threat, which is shooting the suspect.”
The attorney for the officers, Steven Betz, says that even a gardening tool can be lethal. “It was some kind of gardening shear or tool to till earth. It has three prongs, kind of like a claw, metal, hard. If someone swings it at you and hits you in the temple, or hits you in the eye, hits you anywhere in the face, the kind of damage that it could do could obviously be fatal, especially if it punctures you,” Betz says.
The officers involved in the shooting are both veterans of the department. Both are on paid administrative leave. The shooting is under investigation by Union City Police and the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office.