Members of the San Francisco Police Department testified today that the imitation gun used by Jose Corvera, the man accused of threatening police officers in a 2022 shootout, appeared and functioned much like a real gun.
Corvera, who sat through his third day of trial today, had been biking on the sidewalk in the Mission District on Aug. 6, 2022, when two officers attempted to speak with him. He then attempted to flee.
Soon, Corvera had pulled out an imitation firearm and positioned himself behind a parked car, and a lengthy standoff with dozens of police officers ensued. He now faces charges of threatening police officers, resisting arrest and exhibiting an imitation firearm.
Officer Antonio Claudio, a 23-year police veteran who arrived on the scene that day, said in court today that he believed Corvera was shooting an actual gun at him and fellow officers.
“I believed it was a firearm,” said Claudio, who was tasked with building a rapport with Corvera during the standoff, in an attempt to get Corvera to relinquish what Claudio believed to be a real weapon.
Claudio said he had received Crisis Intervention Training from the police department. In his body-worn camera footage, which was presented in court today, Claudio can be heard asking Corvera for his name, and telling him that he will get him help.
“Put it down, buddy,” Claudio says in the footage. Corvera, for his part, refuses in English: “Get out of here! I don’t wanna see you.”
Corvera has been listening to his own trial through Spanish interpreters. But Claudio said today that he believed Corvera understood the English commands he was receiving.
Prosecutor Robert Perkins asked Claudio today how he felt about Corvera. “Did you consider Mr. Corvera a threat?” Perkins asked.
Claudio said that he did, “because he had a firearm, and he was pointing it towards myself and other officers.”
It is unclear how many times Corvera may have shot off his imitation firearm.
Today, Claudio described hearing about three shots that he believed were from Corvera’s weapon, one from when the gun inadvertently went off as he surrendered it. Corvera also apparently shot his firearm once before Claudio arrived on scene.
Meanwhile, the car that Corvera was hiding behind, and the residential building behind him, were riddled with bullet holes from the officers’ shots.
Claudio described Corvera’s voice as “loud, and very angry,” and testified that he was afraid during the interaction. “He’s got a gun in his hands and he’s pointing it towards me, so, you know, I’m in fear of getting shot,” he testified.
Claudio, however, never fired his weapon.
Four officers shot their weapons at Corvera that day: Officer Cain Schrachta and his training officer, Michael Rotschi, from Mission Station, who made initial contact with Corvera; and officers Jean-Michel M’Bouroukounda and Cory Faubel, who arrived as reinforcement from Bayview Station.
Though he never shot his own firearm, Claudio said he believed Corvera’s gun to be real. “It was black, and there was no orange tip in front of it,” he said.
A criminalist from the San Francisco Police Department, who also testified today as a firearms expert, agreed that the imitation weapon was “very similar” to the real thing.
Jacobus Swanepoel, the prosecution’s final witness on Wednesday, had test-fired Corvera’s imitation gun and pointed out its similarities to a real weapon. He said the weapon releases shell casings near the shooter, recoils in the shooter’s hand much like a real gun, and lets off a “muzzle flash” of light, the way a real gun might.
“It’s very hard [to tell the difference] if you just look at it from the outside,” Swanepoel said, adding that it would be “very hard to see that this is, in fact, a blank firing pistol.”