Grand jury finds Salem officer justified in using deadly force against carjacking suspects during shootout

UPDATE: Marion County prosecutors dismissed the charge against Daren Shelton-Olson on Dec. 2, 2022, court records show.

Original story below:

A Marion County grand jury on Monday found a Salem police corporal was justified in shooting at two teens and an unknown third person who fled after officers attempted to stop a vehicle reported stolen in a carjacking on Nov. 12.

A statement released Tuesday by the Marion County District Attorney’s Office said 19-year-old Vincent Nesbitt shot at Cpl. Joshua Buker, who then returned fire. 

No one was injured during the shooting. The statement did not say how many shots the officer or Nesbitt fired.

The confrontation came after a string of carjackings were reported in Salem over a four-day period, resulting in four arrests.

The district attorney’s office gave the following account of the police pursuit and shootout.

At 6:26 pm on Nov. 12, a woman reported two men had tried to rob her of her vehicle near Southeast 17th and Hines streets. 

The woman also reported that she believed one of the men was armed with a firearm.

Salem Police Department officers after receiving the report immediately started searching the area for the suspects, according to the statement.

One officer noticed a vehicle around Northeast 18th and Center streets with at least two people inside who appeared to match the victim’s description of the suspects who had tried to rob her.

Salem police ran the license plate of the vehicle the suspects were in and learned it had been reported stolen in an armed carjacking three days earlier on Nov. 9. 

“Officers attempted to stop the stolen vehicle, but the driver fled, and the pursuit was terminated due to safety concerns,” the statement said. “Although the pursuit was discontinued, officers continued to look for the stolen vehicle and located it a short time later.”

Salem police officers again tried to stop the vehicle, but the driver fled and police again pursued it. The vehicle eventually stopped at the intersection of Northeast 14th and B streets, and all three people who were inside fled on foot. 

Buker ran after the suspects, yelled for them to “stop” and “get on the ground,” but they continued running, according to the statement. 

“During this chase, one of the suspects shot at Corporal Buker, who then returned fire,” the statement said.

Police found a firearm on the scene and arrested Nesbitt and Daren Shelton-Olson, both 19.

Police conducted a search that night for the third suspect but could not find them. Officers still haven’t identified the person and that investigation is pending, the statement said.

The same grand jury that found Buker’s actions to be justified also indicted Nesbitt and Shelton-Olson on Monday.

The grand jury indicted Nesbitt on charges of attempted first-degree murder, attempted first-degree assault, unlawful use of a weapon and unauthorized use of a vehicle in Marion County Circuit Court. He is scheduled to enter a plea Nov. 28, according to court records. 

Shelton-Olson was charged with unauthorized use of a vehicle. He is scheduled to be arraigned on the indictment Nov. 28.

The district attorney’s office said it would release no additional information about the incident.

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

JUST THE FACTS, FOR SALEM – We report on your community with care and depth, fairness and accuracy. Get local news that matters to you. Subscribe to Salem Reporter. Click I want to subscribe!

Ardeshir Tabrizian has covered criminal justice and housing for Salem Reporter since September 2021. As an Oregon native, his award-winning watchdog journalism has traversed the state. He has done reporting for The Oregonian, Eugene Weekly and Malheur Enterprise.