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News Release
Marion County Grand Jury Rules Salem Police Officer's Use of Deadly Physical Force Justified - 11/16/20

11/16/2020

 

Today a Marion County Grand Jury unanimously found that Salem Police Officer Andrew Parsons was justified in his use of deadly physical force on Rudy Martinez-Cortez, 30, on October 29, 2020.

The Grand Jury convened today to hear testimony from 7 witnesses, including Oregon State Police detectives, who led the investigation, as well as officers from the Salem Police Department.  The Grand Jury also heard from multiple civilian witnesses and reviewed multiple audio recordings from civilian sources, as well as photographs, scene diagrams, dispatch recordings, and autopsy conclusions. 

The following is a factual summary of evidence found by the Grand Jury:

On October 29, 2020, Salem Police Officer Andrew Parsons was working his regular shift as a patrol officer for the Salem Police Department. He was in a standard police uniform and operating a marked Salem Police patrol SUV.  At approximately 9:41AM, he was eastbound on State Street at the intersection of State Street and Hawthorne Avenue in Salem, Oregon.  He observed a 1990’s-style Honda Civic turn east on State Street from Hawthorne (traveling south) and approach his position.

Officer Parsons saw that the vehicle had one occupant, was missing a front license plate and was spray painted white, which did not appear to be the vehicle’s original color.  Officer Parsons took a U-turn to initiate a traffic stop on the vehicle; however, the Civic immediately pulled away at a high rate of speed driving west on State Street. 

By the time Officer Parsons turned around, the white Civic was already a significant distance away. Officer Parsons estimated the vehicle’s speed at roughly 80 miles per hour.  Officer Parsons turned on his overhead lights, but turned them off again electing to not engage in a high speed pursuit due to the daytime traffic congestion on State Street and the Civic’s reckless speed. He did call over the radio for nearby officers to help locate the vehicle.

 Officer Parsons followed the vehicle’s direction and observed it turn northwards on to 17th Street.  The Civic continued at a high rate of speed and attempted a left-hand turn (eastwards) onto Court Street.  At that time, the Civic’s front axel broke, causing a screeching skid, and leaving the car immobile at a 45-degree angle on Court Street immediately west of the intersection of 17th and Court Streets.

This area of Court Street is largely residential. Single dwelling homes occupy both the north and south sides of the street. Court Street becomes increasingly residential as one moves eastward, away from 17th Street.  In this neighborhood, most homes have a small backyard, which meet the backyards of the residences next to and behind.

One nearby resident heard the Civic skid and saw the driver flee the vehicle on foot. He saw the driver quickly return and begin rummaging through the passenger compartment of the car.  He did not see anyone else in the vehicle. The resident also testified that a Salem Police patrol SUV pulled up shortly after the crash.  As the patrol vehicle approached Court street traveling northwards on 17th Street, the resident saw the driver of the Civic stop rummaging and run south towards the residences located on the 1600 block of Court Street.

As Officer Parsons approached Court Street northbound on 17th, he also saw the driver of the Civic, later identified as the decedent, Rudy Martinez-Cortez “Martinez”, rummaging through the compartment of the car.  Martinez saw Officer Parsons approach and ran south between the homes on Court Street. 

As Martinez ran away, Officer Parsons testified that he saw that Martinez was carrying something black in his hand but that he couldn’t immediately identify what it was. 

Officer Parsons pursued Martinez on foot behind the residence of 1656 Court Street. As he did so, he saw Martinez slip and fall, and Officer Parsons was able to identify that Martinez was carrying a black handgun.  He yelled “Get on the ground!” and “Salem Police!”  Martinez did not comply and ran to the backyard of the residence.

By the time Officer Parsons entered the backyard area, he had removed his duty pistol. A moment after the initial commands, Officer Parsons yelled “Get on the Ground! Let me see your hands!” He saw that Martinez was across the small backyard in a “bladed” (sideways or slanted) body position, pointing his firearm at Officer Parsons.  Martinez was positioned near a small tree, behind small shrubbery and a small garden pot on a tree stump.  In contrast, Officer Parsons was fully exposed as he entered the backyard.

Officer Parsons heard Martinez fire, and felt a pinch in his ankle, where he later learned that a bullet traveled through his pant leg and grazed his ankle. While not injured, Officer Parsons had a small abrasion from the bullet.

Officer Parsons returned fire.

A nearby civilian security camera captured audio from the incident[1], and clearly depicts that the gunfire occurs in two volleys: first, shortly after Officer Parsons yells “Get on the ground!” at 9:52:46;[2] and the second, after a brief pause in the gunfire exchange where Parsons again yells twice “Let me see your hands!” before gunshots erupt again. There was no video of the incident recovered.

Overall, the exchange of gunfire lasts approximately 16 seconds and Officer Parsons shot twenty-seven (27) rounds at Martinez, who was ultimately struck 7 times.  Other than his ankle, Officer Parsons was not hit.  Despite initial responders’ attempted medical aid, Martinez was pronounced deceased at the scene.

As responding officers initially approached Martinez, they could see a black semiautomatic .45 caliber pistol near Martinez’s body.  That pistol had an open slide, indicating that all of its ammunition had been fired.  Investigators later uncovered several bullet casings near Martinez’s body.  Near the body, they also found bullets fired by Officer Parsons in the small tree, the broken pot and directly behind Martinez in a shed.

Bullets recovered at the scene were consistent with Martinez and Parsons firing at each other.  Only one bullet was recovered from the interior of a nearby residence, and it was consistent with the ammunition used by Martinez and consistent with the trajectory of Martinez shooting at Officer Parsons.

An autopsy was conducted by Oregon State Deputy Medical Examiner Dr. Clifford Nelson.  Preliminary toxicology results revealed that Martinez tested positive for amphetamines.

As is common practice in Marion County, the investigation was conducted by an outside police agency; in this case, the Oregon State Police with the assistance of the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, Keizer Police Department, and Silverton Police Department.

The Oregon State Police applied for a search warrant for the white Honda Civic, which was approved by Marion County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Hart.  Upon searching that vehicle, the Oregon State Police uncovered one unspent bullet and drug paraphernalia in the passenger compartment of the vehicle, and approximately one pound of methamphetamine and empty baggies in the vehicle’s trunk. Martinez also had over $1,000.00 dollars cash on his person.

The Grand Jury applied the facts of this case to the legal principles dictating circumstances when deadly physical force can be used. Specifically, the Grand Jury found that Officer Parsons reasonably believed the following:

  • That Rudy Martinez-Cortez had committed and attempted to commit felonies involving the use or threatened use of physical force against a person;
  • Deadly physical force was necessary to defend a peace officer or another person from the use or threatened imminent use of deadly physical force;
  • Rudy Martinez-Cortez had committed felonies or attempted to commit felonies and under the totality of the circumstances existing at the time and place, the use of such force was justified, and;              
  • The officer’s life or personal safety was endangered in the particular circumstances involved.

 

The Grand Jury's decision required reviewing all the facts and evidence available and applying them to the legal principles above.  The Grand Jury concluded that the actions of Salem Police Officer Andrew Parsons were justified and lawful. 

District Attorney Paige Clarkson stated that: “I would like to thank the Grand Jury for their very thorough and thoughtful review of this incident. Their service in such an important case is essential to ensure transparency and maintain confidence in our law enforcement officers.  Their service was especially remarkable given the public health crisis surrounding our community.

We further extend our thanks to the Oregon State Police for their dedication to this investigation and to our Marion County Use of Deadly Force investigatory process.

But, I am most thankful that Officer Parsons was not injured or killed. This case highlights the very dangerous work our police officers engage in every day. I am proud of the work that Salem Police and other local law enforcement do in placing their lives on the line to protect our community. I am thankful that Officer Parsons returned home that night.”

 

Audio from the security camera nearby the incident can be located here:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1TU_fNDh7jbBWvMUZalmPcb5WwuA-qTwP/view

 

Any questions can be addressed to Deputy District Attorney Brendan Murphy at PMurphy@co.marion.or.us">BPMurphy@co.marion.or.us or (503) 588-5222.

 


[1] The civilian security camera’s residence was under construction and the camera was connected, but dangling directly towards the ground.  The only video of the incident, therefore, does not show any relevant scene.

[2] Timestamp from the unverified security system.

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