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Nov-22-2017 09:44printcomments

Polk County Grand Jury Unanimously Finds Officer Involved Shooting Justified

"...use of deadly force was lawful and justified"

Baltazar Escalona-Baez
Baltazar Escalona-Baez

(DALLAS, Ore.) - On Tuesday, a Polk County Grand Jury unanimously found that Polk County Sheriff's Sergeant Kevin Haynes and Polk County Sheriff's Deputy Kelly Lorence were justified in using deadly force when they shot and killed 17-year old Baltazar Escalona-Baez, of Silverton, on the morning of October 28, 2017.

At approximately 2:30 a.m. on October 28, 2017, Salem Police Officers located a white 2002 Ford Explorer driving erratically and at excessive speeds in the area of Silverton Road NE in Salem. Salem officers were able to trace the license plate number to Escalona-Baez's mother in Silverton.

Officers from the Silverton Police department made contact with her to enquire about the vehicle and she informed them that she believed Escalona-Baez had taken the keys to the Explorer without her permission.

When Salem Police attempted to contact Escalona-Baez, he led multiple police cars on a high speed pursuit through Salem and over the Marion Street Bridge into Polk County. Ultimately, he reversed course at approximately Highway 22 and 52nd Avenue and drove east back into downtown Salem.

Salem Police elected to call off the pursuit at this point. During the pursuit, Salem officers were able to get within eyeshot of the driver of the vehicle and positively identify him as Escalona-Baez using his DMV photo.

At approximately 4:00 a.m., October 28, 2017, Marion County Sheriff's Office responded to a 911 report of a carjacking at the Safeway at Silverton Rd NE and Lancaster Dr. NE.

The victim reported that a man in a white Ford Explorer had forced him off the road, pulled him from his vehicle (a black 2015 Toyota sedan), and threatened him with what appeared to be a weapon in his pocket.

Based on reports that the stolen vehicle was headed into Polk County, Sergeant Haynes and Deputies Lorence, and Stevenson separately began to drive towards the location of the Toyota to intercept it. Radio traffic indicates that the deputies ultimately located the Toyota near the Baskett Slough area.

During the pursuit, the Toyota reached speeds of between 80 -- 100 mph and repeatedly drove into oncoming traffic and onto the shoulder of the highway. Each of the marked Polk County Sheriff's vehicles had lights and sirens activated.

Radio traffic also indicated that the deputies twice inquired of the dispatch operator whether the carjacker had been armed. Dispatch responded that the victim believed the carjacker had been armed when he stole the car.

At approximately 4:25 a.m., Officer Ron Welborn of the Grand Ronde Tribal Police Department attempted to stop the black Toyota by laying spike strips across the highway near the intersection of Highway 22 and Highway 18 to disable its tires in an effort to reduce its speed.

The left front tire was impacted by the spike strips and began shredding, causing the vehicle to slow down. As it did so, Sergeant Haynes was able to overtake the Toyota and maneuver in front of it, blocking it just past the Fort Hill area near Grande Ronde.

Based on the determination that probable cause existed to take the driver of the Toyota into custody based on the felony crimes of Robbery in the Second Degree and Unlawful Use of a Motor Vehicle as well as the crime of Reckless Driving, Sergeant Haynes and the other deputies elected to perform a "high risk" traffic stop in the interest of officer safety given that the driver had been earlier reported to possibly have a weapon and to prevent further flight.

Each officer emerged with their duty sidearm drawn and repeatedly ordered the driver, ultimately identified as Escalona-Baez, to the ground. Eascalona-Baez quickly came out of his vehicle and refused to obey the deputies' verbal commands, walking directly towards Sergeant Haynes.

Sergeant Haynes physically moved him backward with his foot away from the open door of his patrol vehicle to prevent him from gaining entry. Deputy Lorence also was physically struggling with Escalona-Baez in an attempt to get control of him.

At this point, Sergeant Haynes stood approximately two arm lengths away from Escalona-Baez and saw him holding a 5-6" fixed blade knife. Sergeant Haynes called out, "he's got a knife!"

Sergeant Haynes told Escalona-Baez to drop the knife. He did not follow the verbal command and advanced past Sergeant Haynes and walked in the direction of Haynes' open patrol vehicle, as Haynes again told him to drop the knife.

Escalona-Baez, still within arm's reach of Haynes, turned around and advanced directly towards Haynes, pointing the knife towards him. Haynes then shot Escalona-Baez twice.

Deputy Lorence, standing next to Sergeant Haynes also shot twice. Medical attention was immediately provided to Escalona-Baez by deputies and other first responders. Escalona-Baez died of his wounds at the scene.

In making their decision, the Grand Jury heard testimony from the three involved Polk County Sheriff's Deputies. Also testifying were detectives from the Oregon State Police and two citizen witnesses.

The Grand Jury also reviewed scene photos, report of the Oregon State Medical Examiner's Office, as well as 911 and other audio. Applying that evidence to the legal principles regarding the use of deadly force, the Grand Jury found that Sergeant Haynes and Deputy Lorence's use of deadly force was lawful and justified because:

  • The use of physical force was necessary to defend the police officer or another person from the use or threatened imminent use of deadly physical force; and
  • The officer's life or personal safety was endangered in the particular circumstance involved.

Source: Polk County District Atty.

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Robert November 23, 2017 7:57 am (Pacific time)

seems like it is always 'justified'.

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