Deputies ruled justified in shooting teen carjacking suspect arm - KPTV - FOX 12

Deputies ruled justified in shooting teen carjacking suspect armed with knife on Hwy 18

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Officer-involved shooting scene near Grand Ronde on Highway 18 in October. (KPTV) Officer-involved shooting scene near Grand Ronde on Highway 18 in October. (KPTV)

A grand jury has ruled that two Polk County deputies were justified in shooting a 17-year-old carjacking suspect armed with a knife on Highway 18.

The case began at 2:30 a.m. Oct. 28 when Salem officers saw a 2002 Ford Explorer speeding and driving erratically. The license plate was tracked to the owner, who told officers her son had taken her keys without her permission.

A high-speed chase ensued through Salem and the driver was identified as 17-year-old Baltazar Escalona-Baez, 17, of Silverton. 

The chase was called off, but at 4 a.m. deputies responded to a carjacking in the Safeway parking lot at Silverton Road Northeast and Lancaster Drive. The victim said a suspect in a Ford Explorer had forced him off the road, pulled him from his 2015 Toyota sedan and threatened him with a weapon in his pocket.

The stolen car was located in Polk County and another chase took place, with the suspect hitting speeds of 80 to 100 mph and driving into oncoming traffic and onto the shoulder of Highway 18.

At 4:25 a.m., a Grand Ronde Tribal Police Department officer put spike strips across the highway near the intersection with Highway 22, causing the suspect’s left front tire to shred.

Once the stolen vehicle slowed down, a Polk County deputy overtook it and blocked it just past the Fort Hill area near Grand Ronde.

A Polk County District Attorney’s Office reports states a “high-risk traffic stop” was conducted and each officer had their duty sidearm drawn. The driver was repeatedly ordered to get on the ground, but investigators said Escalona-Baez refused to follow commands, walked toward deputies and pointed a fixed-blade knife that was upward of 6 inches in length at them.

Escalona-Baez was ordered to drop the knife, but he was shot after getting within an arm’s reach of a deputy, according to investigators.

Sgt. Kevin Haynes and Deputy Kelly Lorence each shot Escalona-Baez twice, according to investigators. Escalona-Baez was pronounced dead at the scene.

The grand jury heard testimony from the involved deputies, Oregon State Police detectives and two witnesses and also reviewed scene photos, a report from the Oregon State Medical Examiner’s Office and 911 calls.

“Applying that evidence to the legal principles regarding the use of deadly force, the Grand Jury found that Sergeant Haynes and Deputy Lorence's use of deadly force was lawful and justified because, the use of physical force was necessary to defend the police officer or another person from the use or threatened imminent use of deadly physical force; and the officer's life or personal safety was endangered in the particular circumstance involved,” according to the Polk County District Attorney’s Office.

Haynes has 18 years experience with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office and Lorence has been with the sheriff’s office for 1 1/2 years.

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