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


Subject :

Downtown Assault Victim Dies; Suspect Faces Manslaughter Charge
Contact : Zach Perron, Lieutenant, Police Department    650-329-2413
Palo Alto, CA -- The victim of a December downtown assault died this morning after more than two weeks of hospitalization.  As a result, the two suspects police arrested after the crime now face new charges.

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 never regained consciousness.  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.  At that time, 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.  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).  The booking photos from their December 21 arrest are attached to this release.

The victim remained hospitalized in critical condition until he died at about 4:00 a.m. today.  Police are not releasing the identity of the victim.  That information can be obtained from the Santa Clara County Medical Examiner-Coroner's Office.

This morning, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office filed an amended complaint, charging Rotroff with a single felony count of involuntary manslaughter, and charging Mastakar with one felony count of being an accessory to involuntary manslaughter (for his role as the getaway driver) and one felony count of assault with a deadly weapon (for swerving his car towards the two officers who tried to stop him).  Both suspects, who posted bail after their initial arrests on December 21, are presently out of custody.  They are next due in court on Tuesday, January 20, 2015.

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