Birdwood Court: Details still murky in police shooting
Juan Cervantes was cleaning up from a Memorial Day cookout at his house on Birdwood Court when he heard people "yelling and screaming at each other," he says.
He approached the street from his yard. "Someone said, 'I'm going to shoot you,'" recounts Cervantes, and then there was one shot. He called 911.
Birdwood Court is a quiet Charlottesville neighborhood of attractive duplexes off the U.S. 250 bypass near McIntire Road. Cervantes, who's lived there nine years, said his son rode his scooter on the street and saw a police car— an Albemarle County police cruiser.
"It was scary," says Cervantes. "My son was riding around. There are lots of children in this neighborhood. There are kids in the park."
The events surrounding the 9pm Sunday night, May 26, shooting left residents in the dark for four days, until Charlottesville police issued a release May 30.
Two Albemarle police officers— William Underwood and James Herring— were investigating a felony hit-and-run at 105 Birdwood Court, according to the release. They had contact with Josue Salinas Valdez, 38, and "a struggle ensued," says the release, which reveals that Officer Underwood— who just a week earlier had received Albemarle police's valor award, the department's highest honor— fired and shot Valdez.
The wounded man was taken to UVA Medical Center and was in stable condition, according to the release. Although Valdez was not listed as a patient when a reporter called the hospital May 31, UVA spokesperson Eric Swensen says his condition is "good" on June 3.
At press time, the investigation is ongoing, says Roberts, and no charges have been filed. The two officers are on paid administrative leave, according to Albemarle police spokesperson Carter Johnson.
"It is common for Albemarle County officers to be in the city of Charlottesville," says Johnson. "It is also common for officers from the CPD to be in Albemarle County. Officers often follow up on leads in other jurisdictions. We share a common communication system with the city of Charlottesville, and the Emergency Communications Center is always aware of the officers' locations."
Still not revealed by police: Whether Valdez was armed.
"It's completely bizarre," says Birdwood Court Homeowners Association president Laura Rydin on May 28, two days after the shooting at 105 Birdwood Court. Rydin was watching a movie with her kids when she heard a loud boom. "I knew it was a gunshot because it was so close," she says.
"We're trying to figure out what's going on," she says. "We're hoping police issue a statement because this is a very quiet neighborhood and so many families live here. We'd like an explanation."