Police identify 16-year-old boy killed in Bush’s Pasture Park shooting

Police have identified the boy killed in the Thursday afternoon shooting at Bush’s Pasture Park as 16-year-old Jose Vazquez-Valenzuela, a sophomore at South Salem High School. 

He is one of three teenage boys who were shot in the south Salem park. The two surviving victims remained hospitalized as of Friday.

Police said they have made no arrests in the shooting.

In a Friday news release, police confirmed the accounts of several witnesses, saying two large groups of juveniles were at the park when gunfire erupted.

Vazquez-Valenzuela died at the scene. 

Damien Esquivel-Soto, 15, and a 16-year-old boy who police have not identified were transported to Salem Hospital for treatment. Esquivel-Soto is a sophomore at Roberts High School, Salem’s alternative high school, and previously attended South for about three months in the fall, the school district said.

The older boy was subsequently transferred to a Portland-area hospital for additional care. Salem police are not naming him until they can reach his family to notify them of his injuries.

The announcement Friday represented a change in the agency’s practice of not identifying juvenile victims of crimes.

Know something?

Salem police ask anyone who may have witnessed the shooting and has not spoken with detectives to call their tips line at 503-588-8477 and mention case number 24-19870.

The shooting shut down the Upper Leffelle area of the park for over six hours and also put the hospital and nearby South Salem High School on lockdown. Tara Romine, school principal, said in a later message to families that the lockdown was based on a report that people involved in the shooting may have come on campus. There was no active shooter on campus and no injury to students or staff at the school.

Local schools, including South, received online threats Friday, prompting the Salem-Keizer School District to send in “large teams of security” to some schools, district spokeswoman Emily Reverman said.

Salem police also received reports of online threats against South.

“As a precautionary measure, Salem Police officers have a presence in the area,” spokeswoman Angela Hendrick said.

“Right now, we are focused solely upon solving this crime, holding the perpetrator(s) accountable, and bringing justice to these victims and their families,” Salem police Chief Trevor Womack wrote in the news release. “We will, though, have to continue our work with the community to develop an effective intervention and prevention strategy for this intolerable level of violence,” added Womack.

A GoFundMe raising money for Vazquez-Valenzuela’s funeral expenses had raised over $3,000 as of Friday. The fund’s goal is $25,000.

A vigil for the victims is planned for Friday evening at 6 p.m. at the intersection of High and Leffelle streets on the park’s southwest edge. The event is organized by several local churches, including Salem First Presbyterian Church.

“Our community is hurting, and scared, angry, sad. Our community is feeling,” the church wrote on its Facebook page. “Come join us in the park tonight and feel. All are valid all are welcome.”

CORRECTION: The teen who died in the shooting is Jose Vazquez-Valenzuela. His name as provided by Salem police earlier was incorrectly spelled.


“The kid died in my lap”: witnesses describe tragedy, mayhem as 3 shot in Bush’s Pasture Park

UPDATE: One dead, 2 boys injured in shooting at Bush’s Pasture Park

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

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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.