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October 13, 2011
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SWAT shooting ruled justified by DA


Nevada County District Attorney Cliff Newell has determined that Nevada County Sheriff's deputies acted appropriately in the fatal shooting of John Arthur Salazar during a tense standoff Sept. 24.

Salazar, 53, was shot after a three-hour standoff, which reportedly involved Salazar holding a knife to the throat of his fiancee, at his residence in the 12000 block of Wolf Road near Duggans Road.

"After review and analysis of the joint investigation conducted by the Major Crimes Unit of the Sheriff's Office and the District Attorney's Investigation Bureau, the domestic violence incident that resulted in the death of ... Salazar ... was handled appropriately at all stages by the law enforcement personnel involved," Newell said. "It is apparent that the officers in their various capacities and the Special Units involved made every possible and reasonable attempt to resolve the situation peacefully.

"The eyewitness accounts make it obvious that all other options had failed and the incident had devolved into an imminent life-threatening situation for the victim. The Sheriff's Special Enforcement Detail took appropriate steps to prevent the victim from being severely injured or killed by the suspect."

"Any time you have a shooting, it's a tragic event," said Sheriff Keith Royal. "The officers did what was necessary to save (the woman's) life. It's just a tragic situation for all involved, but I believe my officers acted appropriately."

Deputies had been called to the same residence the night of Sept. 23 for a domestic disturbance; Salazar reportedly was drunk and throwing things, according to the sheriff's dispatch reports.

Deputies had responded again to the residence at around 12:30 p.m. Sept. 24 for a physical domestic dispute, forced entry to the house and allegedly found Salazar standing at the top of a stairway with his arm around the neck of his 55-year-old fiancee, with a knife to her throat.

Salazar allegedly told officers if they advanced any farther, he would cut her throat. He then went into a bedroom and barricaded the door and allegedly rejected several attempts by negotiators to communicate by phone.

"Salazar continually yelled that he was going to kill the victim," Newell wrote in a prepared statement detailing the events that afternoon. "During the entire incident, the victim could be heard screaming in pain and pleading for help.

"At approximately 3:30 p.m., the suspect began to barricade the last point of entry into the room," Newell continued. "All indications were that he was preparing to carry out his threats. The determination was made by the incident commanders that the (SWAT team) should make entry into the barricaded room to try and save the victim from imminent harm or death."

The SWAT team then breached the door and found Salazar in a chair using the victim as a shield, with one arm holding her and the other with a knife at her throat, Newell wrote. One of the team members fired one shot, which killed Salazar instantly.

The victim appeared badly beaten with her eye swollen shut, a badly bruised face, and multiple lacerations and bruises over her body, Newell said. She was rushed to the hospital for treatment.

"I spent a lot of time poring through the reports," Newell said. "The interesting thing, and the good thing, is that these types of occurrences are rare in Nevada County, but the quality of the reaction from law enforcement was truly amazing. Everybody did exactly what they were supposed to do, everybody did it by the book."

The SWAT officer, who was placed on administrative leave pending the results of the investigation, is back on duty, Royal said.

To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, e-mail lkellar@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4229.


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The Union Updated Oct 13, 2011 09:06PM Published Oct 13, 2011 09:04PM Copyright 2011 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.