Officer-Involved Shooting of Rafe Stowers by Union City Police Department


Bodycam Video of the Rafe Stowers Shooting

In the early hours of September 9, 2020, a tense situation unfolded at the Extended Stay Hotel in Union City, California, culminating in an officer-involved shooting that has since drawn significant attention. The central figure in this incident was Rafe Stowers, a 33-year-old male with a transient background, whose actions on that day led to a critical confrontation with the Union City Police Department.

Stowers, who had a substantial criminal record with at least 45 prior arrests, including various theft and drug-related crimes, as well as a history of violence and resisting arrest, found himself at the heart of a potentially dangerous hostage situation. The police were alerted to Stowers' presence at the hotel under circumstances that quickly escalated beyond a mere welfare check or routine intervention.

The incident began to unfold when officers, responding to a call for urgent assistance, arrived at the scene. They were informed that Stowers had already inflicted harm and was potentially holding a hostage. The situation took a dramatic turn when Stowers rapidly entered a Honda vehicle parked nearby. His actions were perceived as an attempt to flee, especially given the context of a possible hostage scenario.

Officers, including Officer Cota and Officer Toscano, approached the vehicle, giving verbal commands to Stowers to stop and surrender. However, Stowers blatantly disregarded these orders, manipulating the vehicle in a manner that suggested an imminent threat to the officers. In response to what they perceived as a life-threatening situation, both officers drew their handguns.

The tension reached its peak when Stowers began to reverse the Honda, seemingly aiming it towards the officers. In a split-second decision, Officer Cota, believing that Stowers posed a deadly threat to himself and his colleagues, discharged his firearm, firing a single round at Stowers as the vehicle reversed. This action was deemed necessary to neutralize the perceived threat and protect the lives of the officers and any potential victims.

Following the shooting, the victim, initially believed to be held hostage by Stowers, was located unharmed and provided with necessary resources. The aftermath of the incident saw the Union City Police Department conducting a thorough investigation into the shooting. This investigation involved collecting extensive evidence, including witness statements and physical evidence from the scene.

The findings of the investigation were clear: Officer Cota's actions were within the scope of department policy and did not violate any criminal statutes. The Union City Police Department concluded that the officer acted appropriately under the circumstances, facing a situation where the use of lethal force was justified to prevent imminent harm.

Investigative Summary