Police at the scene of the shooting on Oct. 29. (Courtesy/Rob Owen)
A Marion County Grand Jury Monday found that a Salem police officer who killed a Salem man following a pursuit in October was justified in using deadly force.
Marion County District Attorney Paige Clarkson released details about the Salem case in a news release Monday evening that described Salem Police Department Officer Andrew Parsons returning gunfire after following Rodolfo "Rudy" Martinez-Cortez into a central Salem backyard.
Clarkson and police officials had released little information at the time of the Oct. 29 shooting, saying only that an officer had been shot but not disclosing the officer had been in a gunfight and killed the dead man.
In her statement on Monday, Clarkson described how Parsons was on patrol on State Street when at 9:41 a.m. he saw a 1990s Honda Civic missing a front license plate.
Parsons wheeled around to stop the car but the driver, Martinez-Cortez, 30, quickly pulled away on State Street, driving around 80 mph, according to the officer.
At first, Parsons turned his police car lights on, but turned them off to avoid a high-speed pursuit in traffic. He called on nearby officers to help find the Civic.
The Monday statement said Parsons saw Martinez-Cortez turn onto 17th street, still driving fast. When he tried to make a left onto Court Street, the car’s front axel broke, immobilizing the car at the intersection of 17th and Court Streets.
A nearby resident told prosecutors they saw Martinez-Cortez flee from the car but returned to rummage through the passenger compartment. As Parsons got closer, Martinez-Cortez ran toward homes in the 1600 block of Court Street.
Parsons testified to grand jurors that he saw Martinez-Cortez carrying something black in his hand, but couldn’t identify it.
As he was following Martinez-Cortez, Parsons saw him slip and fall revealing that he was carrying a black handgun.
Parsons yelled “Get on the ground” and “Salem police.”
Martinez-Cortez didn’t comply and instead ran to the backyard of the home. Positioned behind shrubbery and a garden pot on a tree stump, Martinez-Cortez pointed his gun at Parson.
The officer yelled “Get on the Ground! Let me see your hands!”
A security camera in the area recorded audio but no video from the incident, Clarkson said.
Martinez-Cortez shot at Parsons and a bullet went through his pants, grazing his ankle.
Parsons was not injured. A news release from the Salem Police Department the day of the shooting said the officer was “struck in the ankle,” treated by medical staff and released.
Parsons returned fire, shooting 27 rounds at Martinez-Cortez, hitting him seven times. Martinez-Cortez died at the scene.
The exchange of gunfire lasted 16 seconds. One bullet was recovered inside a nearby home, consistent with the .45-caliber pistol found near Martinez-Cortez.
When Oregon State Police searched Martinez-Cortez’s car they found a pound of methamphetamine inside.
SUPPORT ESSENTIAL REPORTING FOR SALEM - A subscription starts at $5 a month for around-the-clock access to stories and email alerts sent directly to you. Your support matters. Go HERE.
Have a tip? Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [email protected] or @daisysaphara.