Police shooting hits home for San Jose legislator
Assemblymember Evan Low seen holding the flag and his brother, San Jose Police Officer Ryan Low, at a parade July 4, 2023 in San Jose. Photo courtesy of Evan Low.

    Assemblymember Evan Low, like other San Jose residents, first heard of yesterday’s officer-involved shooting on the news.

    Then he received a phone call from his older brother, Officer Ryan Low, 42, who’s been with the San Jose Police Department for eight years.

    “(He said) ‘I’m involved in an incident, I can’t tell you any more, talk to you later,'” Low told San José Spotlight. “Any family member of someone who’s in law enforcement dreads that call.”

    Officer Low’s partner became the first female officer shot in the department’s history and the second officer shot this year, according to San Jose Police Chief Anthony Mata. The shooting occurred when they were ambushed while responding to a domestic disturbance call near downtown San Jose at Auzerais Avenue and Race Street.

    The unnamed veteran SJPD officer of 10 years remained in stable but critical condition as of late yesterday, according to Mata. The police did not provide additional information.

    Mata described Officer Low’s actions as “undeniable courage that few of us will ever experience,” after he pulled the injured officer to safety and treated her wounds at the scene.

    “Actions that surely contributed to both of them surviving this deadly attack,” Mata said.

    Bravery aside, Low said shooting events can take their toll on police officers and that his brother is no exception.

    “I already know that he’s recounting the play-by-play of what happened and what he could have done better, (and) why isn’t he (already) back on the force today?” Low said. “Oftentimes, we don’t think about the human element and the impact (these events) take.”

    Low’s brother is also a new father with a six-month-old baby.

    “This is no longer just about (you), when you’re out there, you’ve got to think about your wife, your young daughter, your family and the impact,” Low said. “(But) this is the city that we love … this is home for us. That’s why this is that much more meaningful.”

    San Jose born and raised in an Asian American Pacific Islander family, Low said he and his brother were supposed to become doctors, lawyers or engineers. But the Low brothers’ commitment to their community won out — both find themselves in public service careers.

    “We’ve lived here our entire lives,” Low said. “We want to help support our own home in our own community.”

    Trust issues with San Jose police

    Through his brother’s lived experience, Low said he has seen firsthand the love and commitment to community some police officers have. That’s what makes the lack of trust between the community and San Jose Police Department all the more heartbreaking, he said.

    “In any organization, there are opportunities to do better. But the vast majority of individuals are doing the right thing,” Low said. “In my own occupation, are there politicians that give the occupation a bad name? Absolutely, some more so than others. But does that make me bad, my colleagues bad and our delegation bad? I’d say no.”

    The San Jose Police Department, along with law enforcement agencies across the country, continues to struggle with low staffing and retention numbers, compounded by high costs of living making it difficult to recruit. Low said acts of heroism like his brother’s are good opportunities to reflect on the obstacles police officers face, especially with an uptick of anti-police rhetoric in recent years.

    “We tend to fall into the trap which is, ‘are you either for law enforcement, or are you for the defund movement?'” Low said. “It’s much more complicated than that … (My brother) was born and raised in San Jose, he’s an Asian-Pacific Islander, (he’s) a hero. And he’s going to continually do this each and every day.”

    ‘Should’ve never had a gun’

    Chief Mata said the alleged suspect, identified as Gabriel Mario Carreras, 44, was a convicted felon on probation with an “extensive criminal history” and should’ve never had a gun. And yet, Carreras shot a police officer from the second story of an apartment building near downtown San Jose, Mata said.

    The details of the shooting are all too familiar for San Jose local Katherine Decker. Her son, former San Jose police officer Michael Johnson, was killed while on duty in 2015. The shooter had a history of mental illness and fired multiple rounds from a second-floor balcony.

    “Don’t get me wrong, I have my own firearms because I grew up in the country…There just needs to be stronger gun laws,” Decker told San José Spotlight.

    After her son was killed, Decker got involved in advocacy work, including fighting for Assisted Outpatient treatment also know as Laura’s Law. The law allows authorities to order psychiatric treatment for people with serious mental illness.

    “(Yesterday’s shooting) was gut wrenching, and so similar to what happened to Michael,” Decker said. “My heart goes out to the officers and the family.”

    Contact Ben at [email protected] or follow @B1rwin on Twitter.

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