Self-defense: Officers cleared in Birdwood Court shooting
A grand jury has indicted the man shot by Albemarle police in a city neighborhood Memorial Day weekend and cleared the officers involved, according to a release from Charlottesville Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Chapman.
The May 26 incident began around 8:45pm at Seminole Square Shopping Center when Josue Salinas Valdez rear-ended a car stopped at a light, says Chapman. Salinas Valdez sped away while the driver immediately called 911 with a description of him, his car, and his license number.
About nine minutes later, Albemarle police officers William Underwood and James Herring showed up at 105 Birdwood Court, where Salinas Valdez, the registered owner of the car, was standing on the porch. The officers noticed slurred speech and the odor of alcohol on Salinas Valdez, who was "uncooperative," says the release.
In the melée that followed, Salinas Valdez grabbed Officer Underwood, who was injured. Officer Herring used his Taser to stun Salinas Valdez twice, but that didn't seem to slow him. During a struggle, Salinas Valdez grabbed Underwood's police baton and Herring's Taser cartridge was dislodged.
While Officer Herring went to the car to get another cartridge, Salinas Valdez advanced on Underwood and did not heed orders to stop, which were audible on a contemporaneous recording made on Herring's mobile video recorder, part of the evidence supplied to the grand jury.
"Officer Underwood audibly told him two times that he would shoot him if he did not comply with his instructions," says the release. Salinas Valdez continued to advance with the police baton raised, and Underwood shot him in the torso.
On July 1, the grand jury charged Salinas Valdez with DUI, felony hit-and-run, assault on a law enforcement officer, and attempted malicious wounding of an officer.
Salinas Valdez had encountered Officer Herring at least once before, according to court records. Earlier this year, he was charged with misdemeanor failure to stop at the scene of a March 24 accident, in which Herring was the investigating officer. Salinas Valdez was convicted May 20— six days before the Seminole Square hit-and-run— and fined $500 and $91 in court costs.
The grand jury determined that the shooting was in self-defense, and no charges were warranted against Underwood, whom the Albemarle County Police Department honored with its valor award for his role in a December 26 murder-suicide at Rio Mills Road. A U.S. Army veteran, he served two tours in Iraq and was awarded both a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star according to retired U.S. Army Col. J.P. Jenkins, who wrote a letter to the Hook praising Underwood soon after the shooting.
"This man has proven his 'mettle' and judgment under fire and cares for his community," wrote Jenkins.
The Birdwood Court shooting was the first of two shootings by Albemarle police within two weeks. On June 8, a still-unidentified Albemarle officer fatally fired upon 21-year-old Gregory Allen Rosson when responding to a domestic dispute on Afton Mountain. That case is still under investigation by the Virginia State Police.Attached Documents: