A Tacoma police officer was within his rights to shoot and kill Jacqueline Salyers when she drove toward officers trying to arrest a wanted man in the passenger seat of her car, the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office announced Friday.
The Puyallup tribal member’s family has spent months demanding answers and organizing marches attended by hundreds, questioning the police account of what happened Jan. 28 in the city’s South End.
“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,” Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said in a statement. “I hope having all the facts in the open addresses concerns in our community.”
Salyers’ family could not be reached for comment Friday by The News Tribune. The Prosecutor’s Office also tried without success to reach the family before to ruling was released.
Now that the Prosecutor’s Office has determined the officers involved in the incident didn’t act criminally, the Police Department will launch an internal investigation.
“It appears they followed department policies and procedures, but we still do a thorough internal review,” police spokeswoman Loretta Cool said Friday.
The man with Salyers when she was killed was her boyfriend, Kenneth Wright, who had warrants out for first-degree robbery, unlawful possession of a firearm and unlawful delivery of a controlled substance.
He faced life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted as charged.
The Prosecutor’s Office gave this account of the shooting:
Officers Scott Campbell and Aaron Joseph were checking out a tip on Wright’s whereabouts when they saw him about 11:45 p.m., sitting in Salyers’ idling Lincoln sedan, which was backed into a parking stall.
Joseph parked his patrol car in front of the Lincoln on the road and walked toward the driver’s door. Campbell went to the passenger’s door.
“With information that Wright was armed, the officers approached the vehicle with their handguns drawn,” according to the report.
The officers ordered Wright and Salyers to show their hands.
Police said Salyers punched the gas pedal and steered toward Campbell, who was standing five to 10 feet from the car.
“He was unable to move to safety due to his close proximity and position in the car’s path,” the report said.
Campbell opened fire in Salyers’ direction through the windshield. Four rounds went through the windshield and hit Salyers. Several more went through passenger windows as the car passed the officer.
One round hit Salyers in the head.
Once the car stopped, Wright grabbed a rifle and crawled over Salyers’ body to escape out the driver’s door.
Both officers chased Wright on foot for some time before retreating because they were unsure whether he was trying to get away or looking for cover so he could shoot at them.
Backup arrived, and officers took Salyers out of the Lincoln so Campbell could perform CPR on her until paramedics arrived.
Salyers, who was pregnant, was pronounced dead at the scene. Toxicology reports show she had a possibly fatal dose of methamphetamine as well as morphine in her system when she died.
A stolen .45-caliber handgun and ammunition were found in her car.
A SWAT team and a search dog spent six hours combing the neighborhood for Wright.
Tacoma Public Schools closed Jennie Reed Elementary School the next day because it’s three miles from the scene and administrators worried about the safety of students because Wright was still on the run.
Wright was arrested Feb. 15 at a Tacoma home in the 4400 block of South Asotin Street, where several guns, including an assault rifle, were found.
He gave a false name but was identified by his tattoos.
Salyers’ family described her a victim of domestic violence and said she had tried to get away from Wright, the father of her two youngest children. Salyers was a mother of four.
Prosecutors spent nearly a month reviewing the investigation before making a determination about whether Campbell acted lawfully.
“Facts indicate Officer Campbell fired his gun because he was threatened by the car accelerating toward him,” Lindquist said.
Campbell and Joseph have returned to duty.
Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653