News Release News Release The City of Palo Alto
Communications Department
250 Hamilton Ave
Palo Alto, CA 94301


Subject :

Man in Critical Condition After Downtown Assault; Two in Custody
Contact : Zach Perron, Lieutenant, Police Department    650-329-2413
Rotroff (left) and Mastakar (right) booking photos
Palo Alto, CA -- Two men are in custody and one victim is in critical condition after a late-night assault on the sidewalk in downtown Palo Alto this past weekend.

On Sunday, December 21, 2014, at about 2:04 a.m., officers patrolling downtown while the bars let out heard a commotion on the sidewalk near City Parking Lot "O" at 460 Emerson Street.  They saw a single victim laying in the street and a group of four men running to a car parked nearby.  As the officers ran to assist the victim, the suspects got into the car.  The responding officers attempted to stop it, but it left at a high rate of speed, swerving at the officers such that they had to sidestep it to avoid being struck.  Officers were able to obtain the license plate of the car (a white 1998 Honda Civic four-door) as it drove away eastbound on University Avenue, but other officers were unable to find it.  Paramedics from the Palo Alto Fire Department responded immediately and transported the unconscious victim, a Palo Alto resident in his twenties, to a local hospital.

The investigation revealed that two groups of men (the group of four suspects, and the victim and a friend) previously unknown to each other, had left The Patio, a bar at 412 Emerson Street, after it closed.  At about 1:55 a.m., they had gotten into a verbal argument in front of the bar.  Security personnel from the bar and a police officer witnessed the argument and intervened.  The officer determined that no crime had been committed, and sent the two groups their separate ways.  About ten minutes later, the groups reconvened on the other end of the block near University Avenue and the argument continued.  This time, the argument escalated and one suspect punched the victim a single time in the face, apparently knocking him unconscious.  The victim fell backwards, struck his head on the street, and has not regained consciousness since.  The assault, police later learned, had been captured in its entirety on dash-cam video of an unoccupied patrol car parked down the street.  That video will not be released publicly.

Detectives responded to the scene and immediately began efforts to identify and locate the four suspects.  Personnel worked continuously throughout the night and morning, and after conducting surveillance on a number of locations, detectives located three of the suspects driving in a different vehicle at about 2:00 p.m. on December 21 on East Capitol Expressway at Seven Trees Boulevard in San Jose.  Detectives stopped the three men (two of whom were ultimately booked as described below) without incident and detained them for investigation.  Detectives located the fourth suspect about two hours later at his residence in the 700 block of Old San Francisco Road in Sunnyvale, and detained him without incident as well.

The follow-up investigation by detectives revealed that two of the four suspects had not committed crimes, and they were subsequently released.  Police booked the other two suspects into the Santa Clara County Main Jail.  The man who punched the victim is 28-year-old Neil Brian Rotroff of Cupertino.  Police booked him for a single count of felony assault with a deadly weapon (his fist).  The man who drove the getaway car is 21-year-old Akshay Vijay Mastakar of Sunnyvale.  Police booked him for three counts of felony assault with a deadly weapon (one count for his role as the getaway driver, and two counts for swerving his car towards the two officers who had been trying to stop him).  Booking photos of both men are attached to this release.

After the arrests, detectives continued doing follow-up investigation and ultimately presented the case to the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office for review.  On December 24, the District Attorney’s Office filed one felony count of assault with a deadly weapon against Rotroff, and two felony counts of assault with a deadly weapon against Mastakar (one count covering the victim, and one count covering the two officers).

The victim remains hospitalized in critical condition with severe head injuries.  If the victim’s injuries prove to be fatal, detectives will work with the District Attorney’s Office to amend the charges against the two suspects as appropriate, and police will distribute an updated news release at that time. 

Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call our 24-hour dispatch center at 650-329-2413.  Anonymous tips can be e-mailed to or sent via text message or voice mail to 650-383-8984.  Tips can also be submitted anonymously through our free mobile app, downloadable at or