Grand Jury Rules Salem Officers Justified in Deadly Shooting

Press release from the Marion County District Attorney’s office, November 19, 2011

The following is a press release from the Marion County District Attorney’s Office sent on Friday, Nov. 18:
Today, a Marion County Grand Jury unanimously found that the police officer shooting of Dru Garrett Larson, on October 17, 2011, was a lawful use of deadly physical force.

Dru Garret Larson

Dru Garret Larson

The shooting was the end result of a confrontation between Dru Larson and Salem Police that began when officers noticed and attempted to stop a stolen vehicle. Dru Larson was the driver of that vehicle and rather than pull over as ordered, Dru Larson led police on an extended chase through downtown and the area just north of there.

Eventually Dru Larson lost control of the stolen vehicle and crashed at the NE corner of the intersection of Liberty and Grove Streets.

Dru Larson stopped for a moment and then drove east on the grassy area between the sidewalk and Grove Street before finally returning to Grove Street and striking a parked car.

By this point multiple police officers had arrived on scene and attempted to surround Dru Larson in an effort to stop him and get him out of the vehicle. Despite their repeated orders to surrender and show his hands to police, Dru Larson refused to comply and continued to try to drive forward and push past the vehicle that he had crashed into.

Eventually police broke the driver’s door window with a baton in an attempt to extract him from the vehicle. This action caused Dru Larson to surrender momentarily. However, he then put the vehicle in reverse and accelerated rapidly nearly running over at least two police officers and finally striking a police vehicle.

As he drove at the police officers, Officer Rogers Smith fired four shots in rapid succession, all of which struck Dru Larson and eventually caused his death.

Officer Laura Seefeldt fired a single shot at Dru Larson, however she missed him and the bullet lodged in the vehicle.

Due to the location of the incident (a residential neighborhood) and the duration and volume of the confrontation, a number of local residents saw and heard much of what took place. A number of them were called as witnesses before the Grand Jury.

The investigation of the shooting was carried out by the Oregon State Police and the evidence was presented to the Grand Jury by the Marion County District Attorney’s Office.

A total of thirteen witnesses testified before the Grand Jury, including six civilians and seven police officers. Evidence presented included, not only the testimony of the witnesses, but photographs, scene diagrams, the medical examiner’s report from the autopsy and the toxicology results of the involved police officers. The Grand Jury also received the toxicology results of Dru Larson which came back positive for methamphetamine and amphetamine.

Although Dru Larson had a criminal history, the Grand Jury did not hear testimony about his convictions. They did, however, hear testimony regarding the prior shooting investigation involving Officer Rogers Smith. That incident was also investigated and deemed justified by a separate Marion County Grand Jury in 2007.

The Grand Jury today made its decision in applying the facts of this case to the legal principles regarding when deadly physical force can be used. Those legal principles are as follows.

Rogers Smith had to reasonably believe that:

    (1) Dru Garrett Larson was committing or attempting to commit a felony involving the use or threatened imminent use of physical force against himself or another person;
    (2) regardless of the particular offense which is the subject of the arrest or attempted escape, the use of deadly physical force was necessary to defend the peace officer or another person from the use or threatened imminent use of deadly physical force;
    (3) the crime committed by the person was a felony or an attempt to commit a felony, and under the totality of the circumstances existing at the time and place, the use of such force was necessary; or
    (4) the officer’s life or personal safety was endangered in the particular circumstances involved.

The Grand Jury’s decision required reviewing all the facts and evidence available to them and applying them to the legal rules. That is what the Grand Jury has done today. Their decision is that the actions of Officer Rogers Smith were justified. The Grand Jury found that the actions of Officer Laura Seefeldt were justified as well.