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


Subject :

Additional Details Released About Officer-Involved Shooting
Contact : Zach Perron, Lieutenant, Police Department    650-329-2413
Palo Alto, CA – The investigation into the December 25 police shooting has shed light onto a quick and violent confrontation that transpired in 19 seconds from start to finish, resulting in the death of a man who had summoned police to the scene by falsely reporting an emergency before sprinting at officers while screaming and waving a 9-inch metal knife.

During those 19 seconds, officers retreated repeatedly, gave the suspect numerous commands to drop the knife, called for emergency back-up, and tried to summon an additional less-lethal tool to the scene; but when the suspect ignored commands to drop the knife and suddenly charged them, one officer fired their Taser and two officers fired their pistols to stop the assault.  The entire encounter, including the shooting itself, was captured in its entirety from multiple angles on audio and video recording systems in several police cars.

On Friday, December 25, 2015, at about 9:16 p.m., the suspect called 9-1-1 from 652 Forest Avenue, a transitional residential program that provides psychiatric care to residents.  The suspect, who has since been identified by the Santa Clara County Medical Examiner-Coroner's Office as 31-year-old William David Raff of Palo Alto, said there was a person at the residence who was "really violent" and wanted to harm someone, and provided a name of that alleged person.  No one by that name was present.  There was no mention of weapons in the 9-1-1 call.

Three officers arrived on scene and began walking towards the front lawn of the residence.  The suspect emerged from the shadows in front of the home while brandishing a knife in his hand and jumping around erratically.  The officers immediately called for emergency back-up while retreating from the property, and gave the suspect multiple commands to drop the knife as they backed up.  As the officers further retreated to the street, one officer requested an emergency response from any unit equipped with a particular less-lethal weapon that fires a hard rubber munition.

As the officers continued retreating towards their police cars, the suspect moved to the middle of the street and continued jumping around erratically while waving the knife.  Officers continued to repeat their commands to drop the knife, but the suspect ignored them. The suspect then suddenly sprinted directly at the officers while screaming and waving the knife.  As the suspect closed in on them, one officer fired a Taser and two officers fired their pistols as he charged.  The suspect got close enough to them that one officer who fired his pistol had to move to avoid being struck by the falling suspect.    Officers provided first aid to the suspect until paramedics arrived and took him to a local hospital, where he later died.

From the time the suspect initially confronted the officers to the time he charged them and was shot, about 19 seconds elapsed.

The officers who fired their pistols at the suspect were Officer Nicholas Enberg and Officer Zachary Wicht.  At this time, it is not confirmed how many rounds were fired by each officer, how many rounds from which officer may have struck the suspect, or how many times the suspect was actually struck.  The evidence team recovered nine bullet casings at the scene. Officer Enberg has five years of law enforcement experience, the last 2½ years of which have been with our agency.  He is the officer who had to move to avoid the falling suspect.  Officer Wicht has 1½ years of law enforcement experience, all with our agency.  Both officers are currently on paid administrative leave, as is standard in any officer-involved shooting investigation.  The officer who discharged their Taser at the suspect is not being identified, as our Department only releases the names of officers who have discharged firearms at suspects (as opposed to using other types of force) as a matter of procedure.  No officers were physically injured during the incident.

The incident was captured in its entirety from multiple angles by audio and video recording systems in multiple police cars.  The audio and video evidence, along with all of the other evidence and investigative reports, will be turned over to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office at the conclusion of the investigation.  We will not be releasing the audio or video footage, or any other evidence in the case, at this time.

Three independent witnesses who were walking in the neighborhood at the time of the shooting and watched what happened have provided statements to investigators.

The suspect was armed with a metal knife that was nine inches long. It had one lightly serrated edge and a tapered, slightly-rounded tip.  Police recovered the knife at the scene.

The suspect lived at 652 Forest Avenue, having just moved into the residence within the past week.  We will not be releasing any additional information about him.

Parallel investigations are continuing by our detectives and investigators from the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office.  At the conclusion of our criminal investigation, we will submit it to the District Attorney’s Office for review.  At the conclusion of our administrative investigation, we will submit it to our Independent Police Auditor for review.  Both the District Attorney’s Office and the Independent Police Auditor will receive all audio and video recordings associated with the case.  Both of these independent third parties will make public comments at the appropriate time about the incident, the response of our officers, and the investigations themselves.

Having reviewed all of the evidence in this case (including all of the audio and video evidence, and all of the interviews), we believe we have learned all of the significant details that occurred during the 19 second encounter between the suspect and our officers.  We have included those significant details in this news release.  We do not anticipate releasing additional information at this time. Any future inquiries about the criminal investigation should be directed to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office.

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