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Prosecutor finds officer’s use of deadly force lawful
TACOMA, WA – Independent and concurrent investigations by the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office, Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office and Tacoma Police Department regarding the death of Jacqueline Salyers, 32, have been completed. Salyers died from a gunshot wound inflicted by a Tacoma Police officer, who was attempting to arrest a violent felon in the vehicle Salyers was driving.
Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist concluded the death was justifiable homicide under state law, which requires a showing of malice to prove an officer acted criminally.
On Jan. 28, 2016 at 11:46 p.m., Officers Scott Campbell and Aaron Joseph were attempting to confirm information they received regarding the location of Kenneth Wright, who had arrest warrants for first-degree robbery and unlawful possession of a firearm. They saw Wright sitting in the passenger seat of a vehicle, which was backed into a parking stall.
Officer Joseph parked his patrol car in the roadway in front of the vehicle. He exited and walked toward the driver’s side of the vehicle, while Officer Campbell walked toward the passenger’s side of the vehicle, where Wright was seated. With information that Wright was armed, the officers approached the vehicle with their handguns drawn. In full uniform, both officers ordered Wright and the driver, Salyers, to show their hands.
Officer Campbell was within five to ten feet of the front passenger corner of the vehicle when Salyers started the engine. She immediately accelerated forward, turning in the direction of Officer Campbell. He was unable to move to safety due to his close proximity and position in the car’s path. In an attempt to stop the driver from striking him, Officer Campbell fired his gun through the windshield in the direction of the driver.
Investigators determined the vehicle was within inches of striking Officer Campbell when he fired. Four rounds struck the windshield and additional rounds went through the passenger windows as the vehicle travelled quickly by Officer Campbell. Salyers was struck four times, including one fatal shot on the right side of her head above her ear.
After the vehicle came to a stop, Wright armed himself with a rifle, crawled over Salyers, who was mortally wounded, and exited the driver’s door. The officers briefly chased Wright on foot, but discontinued the pursuit because they were uncertain if Wright was fleeing the area or taking cover with the intent of firing at them. Officers Campbell and Joseph took cover and waited for backup.
Once backup arrived, officers removed Salyers from the vehicle and moved her to a safer location, where Officer Campbell performed CPR on her until medical aid arrived. Salyers was pronounced dead at the scene.
An air unit, K-9 team and SWAT officers conducted a six-hour search for Wright, but they were unable to locate him. Investigators found acceleration marks where the vehicle had originally been parked. Inside the vehicle, they located a stolen .45 caliber handgun, as well as several rounds of ammunition.
According to Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Clark, Salyers died from a gunshot wound to her head. Dr. Clark also determined Salyers had morphine (indicative of probable heroin use) and a potentially fatal level of methamphetamine in her system at the time of her death.
“Facts indicate Officer Campbell fired his gun because he was threatened by the car accelerating toward him,” said Prosecutor Mark Lindquist. “I understand the pain and sorrow felt by those who knew Jacqueline Salyers, but the facts in this case indicate a lawful, though tragic, shooting. I hope having all the facts in the open addresses concerns in our community.”
On Feb. 15, 2016, Wright was arrested at a Tacoma residence. In the room where Wright was staying, police found several firearms, including an assault rifle.