When three Palo Alto police officers arrived at the front lawn of a home at 652 Forest Ave. in the waning hours of Christmas night, they reportedly saw a man emerge from the shadows, brandishing a metal knife and jumping around in an erratic manner.
Nineteen seconds later, 31-year-old William David Raff was shot and killed by police and the city had its first officer-involved shooting since 2002.
Exactly what happened during those 19 seconds remains the subject of a police investigation. But according to new information issued by the Palo Alto Police Department on Tuesday, the shooting occurred only after the officers repeatedly ordered Raff to drop the knife, retreated from the lawn to the street and requested backup.
According to police, officers Nicholas Enberg and Zachary Wicht reportedly fired their guns at Raff after he allegedly "sprinted directly at the officers while screaming and waving the knife." Another officer, who is not being named, reportedly fired a Taser at Raff at the same time.
Raff allegedly got close enough to the two officers that Enberg had to move to avoid being struck by him as he fell under gunfire.
The new information was made available to the police through reviews of video and audio footage from two police cruisers, each of which reportedly captured the incident in its entirety from multiple angles. Police said they are not releasing video and audio footage at this time.
Enberg, who has been with the police department for two and a half years, and Wicht, who has been a Palo Alto police officer for a year and a half, are now on paid administrative leave, a standard practice with officer-involved shooting investigations.
The officers responded to the Forest Avenue group home (operated by La Selva for residents who require psychiatric care) for a "false emergency" call in which Raff reported that a person at the residence is "really violent" and provided the name of that person. Police said there was no one by that name in the residence.
The call was made at about 9:16 p.m. Seven minutes later, the officers showed up at the nondescript Tudor home near the intersection of Forest and Middlefield Road.
As soon as the officers arrived, they saw Raff "jumping around erratically" with a knife in his hand, according to a police department press release. Officers immediately called for backup while retreating from the property and gave the suspect "multiple commands" to drop the knife, according to the press release. As the officers retreated toward the street, one officer requested an emergency response from a police unit that is equipped with a weapon that can shoot rubber bullets.
But the situation appeared to have escalated before any help could arrive. Even as the officers were retreating toward their vehicles, Raff moved to the middle of the street and continued to jump around while waving the knife, which police said had a slightly serrated edge and a tapered, slightly-rounded tip. Police said this was the kind of a "table knife" that is typically used as a dining utensil -- a solid piece of metal about nine inches in length.
Raff allegedly ignored the officers' repeated commands to drop the knife, and then charged at the officers while screaming and waving the knife.
One officer then fired a Taser, police said, while Enberg and Wicht fired their pistols.
Though it's not yet clear how many rounds were fired, the police department's evidence team later recovered nine bullet casings at the scene, police said. Officers reportedly provided first aid to Raff before paramedics arrived and transported him to the hospital, where he later died.
In addition to reviewing video and audio footage, police said they interviewed three different witnesses who were walking in the neighborhood during the incident and saw what happened.
Police believe the interviews, along with all of the audio and video evidence captured from the police vehicles, has given the department "all of the significant details" about the 19-second encounter. Police don't plan to release any additional information about what the press release calls a "quick and violent confrontation."
According to the release, Raff had just moved into the group home within a week of the incident. His father, Garold Raff, told the Weekly that William has been suffering from schizoaffective disorder, a condition whose symptoms can include hallucinations, depression and mania.
Once the Palo Alto Police Department completes its criminal investigation, it plans to hand over all the evidence to the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office for review, according to the news release. The department also plans to submit the evidence to the city's Independent Police Auditor Michael Gennaco, who will be asked to review both the officers' conduct and the police department's response. Gennaco's review would take place after the department concludes its own administrative investigation, according to the press release.