Grand jury finds Salem officers justified in fatally shooting teen suspect

A Marion County grand jury on Thursday unanimously found three Salem police officers were justified in shooting and killing 16-year-old Robert Brown on July 13 after attempting to arrest him.

A statement released Friday evening by the Marion County District Attorney’s Office said the officers fired a total of 20 shots at Brown after the teen shot in officers’ direction from a car.

Two bullets struck Brown, and an autopsy found he died from gunshot wounds to the head and chest. 

Grand jurors heard testimony from 12 witnesses including detectives with the Oregon State Police and civilian witnesses. They also reviewed exhibits including photographs and surveillance video from the incident, medical examiner findings, ballistics and firearm information, scene diagrams and police radio recordings.   

The district attorney’s office gave the following account of the attempted arrest and shootout.

Salem police tried to arrest Brown after obtaining a warrant signed by Marion County Circuit Judge Donald Abar, which found probable cause to believe he was responsible for a shooting June 13 in a downtown parking lot next to Columbia Bank. Police said at the time the shooting left a man in critical condition.

Police also believed Brown was the suspect in a March 18 shooting at Salem Center Mall that left a boy injured, according to the statement.

Salem detectives monitored Brown’s location and surveilled his actions in the days leading up to his death on July 13. “Investigators had reason to believe Brown was armed and a likely continual danger to both the community and any officers attempting to make an arrest,” prompting the agency to assign its SWAT team to arrest the teen, the statement said.

Officers staged near 4942 Oak Park Drive N.E. Brown was associated with someone who lived in the house and had been seen there throughout the day. 

Shortly after 5 p.m. on July 13, officers saw Brown and three other people in a red car parked in front of the house, with Brown in the back seat behind the driver.  

SWAT officers in three unmarked cars surrounded the car, pinning from the front and back bumpers and blocking the car from driving away through the side, while deploying two flash bang grenades.

“Almost immediately upon this contact, Brown momentarily ducked out of view and quickly returned brandishing a loaded pistol in his right hand and firing in the direction of the officers,” according to the statement. 

Video provided by the Marion County District Attorney’s Office showed a person identified in the statement as Brown firing a gun multiple times.

Three officers returned fire.

The Marion County District Attorney’s office said this photo shows the suspect, Robert Brown, 16, firing at police officers during an attempted arrest July 13, 2022. A grand jury found Salem police justified in shooting and killing Brown (Marion County District Attorney’s Office)

Officers gave commands loud enough that a neighbor heard police identifying themselves from inside his house across the street.

Salem officer Brian Frazzini fired his rifle 11 times toward Brown from the front passenger seat of the undercover car at the front bumper of the suspect car. 

Corporal Adam Waite, the driver of the same undercover vehicle, fired his rifle three times at Brown through the front windshield of the driver’s seat. 

Officer Ryan Morris — driving the undercover car that blocked the suspect car from the side — fired his pistol six times in Brown’s direction. 

While in the backseat behind Frazzini, Detective Erik Hernandez sought cover at the back of his car and was hit in the ankle by a bullet Brown fired. 

“Despite his injury, he stayed in the firefight until the threat had ceased and the shooting ended,” the statement said. 

Hernandez was treated on scene and transported to Salem Hospital for treatment.  He is expected to fully recover.

Salem Fire Department Captain Luke Barr was in the front passenger seat of the undercover car pinning the suspect car from behind. Barr, a firefighter and paramedic cross trained as a medic for SWAT, was exiting his car when his face, arms and torso were injured by shrapnel that “impacted the butt of his rifle,” the statement said.

He remained on scene to treat both Hernandez and Brown. Barr will fully recover from his injuries. 

The teen was “obviously injured” in the shootout and was unresponsive on the ground outside the car with his pistol still in hand.

After police safely removed the other occupants from the suspect car, Barr took the firearm from Brown’s grip and then assessed his medical condition.  Police called additional medics, but Brown was declared dead at the scene.

The incident is the third fatal shooting this year by Salem police officers.

Shell casings found at the scene indicated Brown fired six shots in the officers’ direction.

The incident in total, from first contact with the suspect car to the last gunshot of gunfire, lasted about twelve seconds.   

A diagram released by the Marion County District Attorney’s Office showing locations of vehicles during a shootout between police and 16-year-old Robert Brown on July 13, 2022.

The same grand jury that found the officers justified in shooting Brown indicted another person, 20-year-old Anthony Medeiros, on charges of unlawful use of a weapon with a firearm and possessing a firearm as a felon for his role in the incident. Medeiros is being held at the Marion County Jail and is scheduled to be arraigned July 25.

The district attorney’s office said in the release it would not release any additional information about Medeiros’ case.

“My gratitude to the grand jury for their thorough and thoughtful assessment of this dynamic and complex incident is eclipsed only by my admiration for the bravery and heroism displayed by these Salem Police Officers, the Salem Fire Captain and the entire SWAT team,” said Marion County District Attorney Paige Clarkson in the statement.” Our community is safer because of their selfless willingness to stand in harm’s way on behalf of us all. I am relieved that no officers lost their lives in this incident-an incident that but for the quick thinking and professional training of the Salem Police Department, could have ended much more tragically. My sympathies are extended to the family of Robert Brown. Nobody wanted this outcome for him.”

“I am appreciative of the diligent work done by Oregon State Police and the (district attorney) to present their investigation results quickly and thoroughly to the Grand Jury,” Salem police Chief Trevor Womack said in a statement. “I am also grateful to the residents of this county who served on the Grand Jury. Thank you for your time and thoughtful review of the evidence presented which resulted in today’s findings.”

Contact reporter Ardeshir Tabrizian: [email protected] or 503-929-3053.

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