- Jan 27:
- 911 transcript: Fear, chaos at scene of killing of suspect in Harms case
- Jan 23:
- Mystery deepens over what happened to Jeanine Harms
- Jan 18:
- Timeline: The Jeanine Harms case
- Jan 17:
- Harms' brother was upset there was 'no closure' to case
- Woman who introduced Harms to Nasmeh haunted by that moment
- Herhold: No closure in the Jeanine Harms case
- Jan 16:
- Photo slide show: The Jeanine Harms murder case through the years
- Jeanine Harms' brother kills chief suspect, then himself
In a rare decision that may signal a move toward greater public transparency, San Jose police Wednesday released the 911 audio recording capturing the chaos and fear of a coffee shop employee as a vigilante-style murder-suicide unfolded, leaving the suspect in the 2001 disappearance of Jeanine Harms and her brother dead.
The recordings shed no new light on the Harms mystery. But they capture an employee's rising anxiety as a Jan. 15 verbal confrontation in a Peet's Coffee in the El Paseo de Saratoga shopping center escalated into a horrific slaying.
While the employee was locked in the bathroom with other customers, the sound of a single gunshot can be heard on the recording.
"Oh my God, he shot somebody! Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God!" the woman says.
Police Sgt. Jason Dwyer, a department spokesman, praised the employee -- who was not named by police -- for her quick actions when Wayne Sanchez, Harms' brother, shot Maurice Nasmeh inside the coffee shop. "We are all impressed with how this person reacted to such a frightening scenario," Dwyer said. "She remained calm, got everyone to safety in a bathroom and provided accurate updates to the dispatcher."
The release of the recording also marked an unusual step by a police department that has long resisted releasing such confidential case information. And some noted it as a possible change of philosophy under acting police Chief Chris Moore, who has made clear attempts in his short
"This is a significant positive development," said Kelli Evans, associate director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. "Timely disclosure of police records, including 911 tapes where appropriate, is an essential component of a transparent and open government. Not only does such disclosure help the public to understand how certain events transpired but also helps do away with the perception that law enforcement has something to hide."
Some other local law enforcement agencies, such as Santa Clara police, have released 911 records in the past.
Moore said he would release such recordings on a "case-by-case basis" after consulting with affected families and making sure the recordings did not interfere with active cases or prosecutions.
"After reviewing the case, talking to the district attorney and involved parties, I felt it was appropriate to release the recording in the effort to increase the level of the department's transparency," Moore said.
District Attorney Jeff Rosen said Moore called him Tuesday to confer about the release of the recording. The county's top prosecutor said he had no
"Because there was no prosecution of a criminal case," Rosen said. "It's not like we have an active case."
The recording documents a single emergency phone call to the SJPD communications center on the evening of Jan. 15, after a chance meeting between Sanchez and Nasmeh at Red Robin restaurant moved to an adjacent Peet's Coffee & Tea shop.
Nasmeh was the primary suspect in Harms' disappearance. Her body has never been found; Nasmeh was arrested, charged with her murder and spent two years in prison before charges were dismissed and he was released in 2007.
The recording begins as the Peet's employee, who didn't know either of the men, asks for police help.
"I need someone escorted from my store right away," she tells the dispatcher. When asked if it is a physical fight, the woman says that it is "verbal." In the recording, you can hear the sound of someone yelling.
Suddenly the situation dramatically changes tenor when the woman tells the dispatcher "Holy (expletive), he has a knife ... or a gun!"
Then, "It's a gun." The woman herds customers and other employees to safety: "Go! Go! Go, in the bathroom."
After Nasmeh is shot, the woman tries to give a description of the shooter.
The dispatcher calmly tries to relax the frightened woman saying that police are on their way.
Asked for a more detailed description of the shooter and his victim, the woman replies, "I can't go out there."
"I don't want you to," the dispatcher reassures. "I want a good description of this guy so we can catch him."
The woman gives a basic description.
Finally the woman says, "He's gone. But somebody is shot. Oh my God. Oh my God."
The recording ends with exchanged thank-yous.
But the incident was not yet over and ended with more bloodshed.
Soon after, police arrived at the El Paseo de Saratoga Shopping Center. Officers heard a final gunshot. Sanchez had killed himself.
Contact Sean Webby at 408-920-5003.