SJPD Star


SJPD Fallen Officers

Officer Jeffrey Fontana

1977 - 2001

Killed in the Line of Duty October 28, 2001

We Honor the Sacrifice He Made

A San Jose police officer was gunned down early Sunday morning at the end of a quiet Almaden Valley cul-de-sac, prompting a day long search that resulted in one person being detained for questioning.

Officer Jeff Fontana, 24, of Woodside, is the first San Jose police officer killed by gunfire in the line of duty in more than 12 years. He was shot on Calle Almaden at about 4:30 a.m. Residents who live on the street of well-kept, relatively new homes near Lake Almaden said there had been a recent string of car break-ins in their normally tranquil neighborhood. Police officials, who provided few details, would not disclose why Fontana was at the cul-de-sac and declined to comment on whether he had been alone for two weeks.

Police were searching for two suspects and said they had a number of strong leads. But sources could not say if the person who was detained was one of those suspects. At a news conference attended by San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales, Police Chief Bill Landsdowne confirmed Fontana’s death, the first officer killed in the line of duty in two years, and the first slain by gunfire since a 1989 downtown shootout that left two officers dead. Fontana, who worked as a volunteer in community policing centers before joining the force a year ago, had completed a customary 16-week training program before assuming solo patrol duty. Police would not disclose whether Fontana contacted dispatchers before the shooting to report his location or the nature of his investigation.

But one San Jose police official said Fontana apparently was caught off-guard. Chief Landsdowne said it was not unusual for officers to patrol on their own, as Fontana was at the time of the shooting. The Almaden Valley neighborhood was Fontana’s regular patrol area.

Calle Almaden and nearby streets were overrun in the pre-dawn hours by rie-toting officers in combat fatigues, police dogs and police helicopters searching for the killer. Neighbors reported that police were searching bushes and back yards for a weapon. At the home of Fontana’s parents, San Jose officers guarded the entrance and the grieving family’s privacy, keeping unwanted visitors away. Fontana’s death shook the department’s ranks, said Jeff Ricketts, a San Jose Police Officers Association official. “Everyone’s pretty much in shock. You just don’t think something like this is going to happen,” Ricketts said. “From everyone’s estimation he was a good, young police officer that loved to be a cop and wanted to be a cop” said Assistant Chief Tom Wheatley. “He was out on his own doing the things all cops want to do all their lives.”

Fontana is the eighth San Jose police officer slain in the line of duty. A makeshift memorial of owers, candles and an American flag was placed on Calle Almaden just a few feet from where Fontana was shot. A note attached to one flower arrangement said, “Your sacrifice and what you stood for as ” Several neighbors said they heard the gunshot and ran outside to discover the officer lying in the street near the suspect’s car, which was left in the driveway of a house at the end of the cul-de-sac. The neighbor who reported the shooting to police was visibly angry on Sunday as news crews jammed the cul-de-sac and declined to speak to reporters. But others described a chaotic scene as police arrived in the darkness, searching through back yards with police dogs. Kimberly Brady, who lives on the street, snapped photographs of the scene, which showed detectives and members of the department’s special weapons and tactics team, dressed in combat fatigues, filling the street in the aftermath of the shooting.

The San Jose Police Department has not lost an officer in the line of duty since 1999, when officer Desmond Casey was killed piloting a police helicopter. The last San Jose officers killed by gunfire were Gordon Silva and Gene Simpson, who died during a downtown shootout in 1989. "We only hope we can restore our community where these kinds of acts of violence will not take place in the future,” Mayor Gonzales said.

On 10-28-01 at 4:35AM, San Jose Police Communications received a call from a citizen on Calle Almaden reporting an officer down on the street outside their residence. Officers responded and found Officer Fontana lying in the roadway suffering from a gunshot wound to the head. Paramedics attempted to revive Jeffrey, but he was pronounced dead at the scene. Investigators are still attempting to determine what led to this shooting. It appears that Jeff had stopped the vehicle and was shot during his approach. The suspect(s) fled the scene, but Homicide Investigators have developed sufficient information to charge suspect DeShawn Campbell with murder in this case. The suspect is also wanted for two outstanding felony warrants.

 

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