What happened to Dru Larson

Driver of stolen car shot, killed after chase, crash – Salem Statesman Journal, October 17, 2011

Salem police say officers were in danger

A stolen Honda wove through alleys, against oncoming traffic and blew through stop signs — just ahead of a string of police cars — in a downtown Salem chase that ended with a fatal shooting Monday.

At least two Salem police officers fired shots at the man driving the stolen car after he crashed into a stop sign at Grove and Liberty streets NE. The man, who was not identified, died at the scene.

Salem police spokesman Lt. Dave Okada said the incident started when police officers saw a stolen car near Liberty and Ferry streets SE downtown.

Officers spotted the 1989 Honda Civic, which had been stolen hours before, about 1 a.m.

They followed the vehicle.

“It was speeding up and speeding up, and it became obvious he was running from them,” Okada said.

The man didn’t stop the Honda, instead leading a three-minute chase of speeds between 30 and 50 mph. Traffic was light as the car drove out of downtown on Cottage Street NE, police said.

Police followed the car as it went down Fifth Street NE and Broadway NE, then over to Liberty Street NE.

The chase slowed when the Honda crashed into a stop sign at Liberty and Grove streets NE. The Honda kept going, hitting a car parked on Grove Street.

“His subsequent actions placed officers at the scene in imminent danger,” Okada wrote in a press release.

No more information about the suspect’s action was released.

Police officers surrounded the car and gave orders to the driver.

Officers Laura Seefeldt and Rogers Smith fired their handguns at the man. Several bullets went through the windshield of the Honda.

The officers gave emergency medical aid, but the man died at the scene.

Neighbors near Liberty and Grove streets said they heard two to six shots fired.

Nickie Young, 50, said she heard the car crash into the stop sign and that when she looked out her bedroom window, she saw the Honda stuck on a lawn.

Police were yelling at the driver from behind the car, she said, repeatedly commanding him to “get out of the car.”

In the meantime, the man was trying to free his tires from the lawn with the car in reverse, she said.

Eventually, Young said, “you could see it backing up into the cop standing behind the car.”

That’s when Young heard four to six shots.

“They didn’t have much of a choice,” she said.

Darren Holmquist, a bartender at Fitzgerald’s Public House across Liberty Street, was closing at the time. He saw the Honda take out the stop sign and thought it was a simple crash.

“We thought that was the end of it,” Holmquist said.

Four customers were at the bar at the time. They watched as a dozen police cars pulled up.

“The police kind of blocked him in, and I saw reverse lights come on,” Holmquist said. The next thing he heard was gunshots; at least four.

A couple in the business ducked to the floor after hearing the shots. Holmquist said it was fortunate the situation didn’t end with more injuries.

“He could have easily come this way and ended up in our patio,” Holmquist said.

Lori Sumner, 43, said she wasn’t quite asleep when she heard sirens, then a “big old crash,” followed by yelling and two shots.

When she walked out of her home, she said, she saw at least a dozen police cars along Grove, from Broadway to Commercial Street NE.

Dru Garret Larson

Dru Garret Larson

“It was pretty crazy,” she said. “I didn’t know what to think.”

Sumner said she was left to explain to her 8-year-old daughter, Leah, that “things like that happen because people don’t obey the law.”

“I’m just going to go about my day,” she said. “You can’t pray that he’s going to be OK because he’s not.”

Seefeldt has worked at Salem Police Department since March 2000. She has an advanced police certificate from the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training.

Before coming to Salem, she worked as a police officer in Independence for almost six years.

Smith has worked with Salem police since January 2006. He earned an intermediate police certificate in June 2010, according to DPSST records.

Both officers have been placed on paid administrative leave, a standard procedure after an officer-involved shooting. According to a process created by Senate Bill 111, the Marion County District Attorney’s Office and Oregon State Police will continue the investigation.

“They were trying to do their job. The end result was a direct response and a direct result to the actions that the person driving the Honda took,” said Mark Makler, an attorney for the Salem Police Employees Union. “They were put in harm’s way, and the alternative for them was the use of deadly physical force.”

Smith previously has been involved in an officer-involved shooting.

A grand jury ruled Smith justified for shooting Rockne Mack Nickell during a struggle in March 2007. Nickell allegedly threatened neighbors with a knife and confronted police with what turned out to be a pellet gun.

According to a state police investigation, Smith thought he was shooting Nickell with his Taser and instead fired his gun.

The last fatal officer-involved shooting in Salem occurred in August 2007.

Cpl. John Humphreys was deemed to be justified in shooting Cesar Alejandro Gonzalez-Meza, 19, of Stayton, after a struggle. Humphreys found Gonzalez-Meza hiding in bushes after Gonzalez-Meza and others bailed from a stolen car after a chase. Gonzalez-Meza stunned Humphreys with his own police Taser and was pulling at the officer’s gun belt before he was fatally shot.

NEW STORY Salem police shoot, kill driver of stolen car following downtown chase – KOIN.com, October 17, 2011

One man is dead after two Salem police officers shot him Monday morning in what started as a stolen car incident Sunday.

“I was able to see two or three officers with their guns drawn,” said Rebekah Holmn, who witnessed the incident unfold. “We heard the dogs, the K-9 units and we heard the first shot and after that we heard four more following.”

Police say a 1989 Honda Civic was reported stolen Sunday, and was spotted by officers just after 1 a.m. Monday. The suspect noticed police and quickly drove away. He took them on a three-minute chase topping at about 50 mph.

Police then chased after the suspect, who was halted after hitting a stop sign and a parked car.

When authorities tried to talk to the suspect he did not listen to orders and then police say two officers chasing the driver–Rogers Smith and Laura Seefeldt–felt in “imminent danger.” They both shot the suspect, who died at the scene.

“The car pulled in reverse and slammed into the police cars that were already parked in the intersection that’s where they were stopped in front of his vehicle,” Holmn said.

According to Holmn, an officer thought the suspect threatened to run over police with the vehicle.

“One of them thought that he was going to try to run him over,” she said.

Police didn’t immediately identify the suspect and an autopsy is scheduled for later today.

Both officers are on administrative leave, normal procedure pending the outcome of the investigation, which is being handled by Oregon State Police and the Marion County Sheriff’s Office.

Police chase leads to deadly shooting in Salem, KPTV.com, October 17, 2011
Man shot & killed by Salem officers after chase – KGW.com, October 17, 2011
Salem police shoot, kill driver of stolen car – KATU.com, October 17, 2011

NEW STORY – Family of man shot dead by officers seeks answers – Salem Statesman Journal, October 19, 2011

Jane Larson stood at a northeast Salem intersection Tuesday night with tears in her eyes and her hand over her mouth, trying not to be sick.

Piles of glass and a muddy tire-tread mark in the grass showed the spot where her son, Dru Garret Larson, was shot and killed by police.

“I’m going to miss him so much,” Jane Larson said. “If I had my way, I wish it was me, not him. I would change places in a heartbeat.”

Dru Larson, 22, fatally was shot by Salem officers early Monday, said Marion County Deputy District Attorney Matt Kemmy. An autopsy performed by the Oregon State Medical Examiner determined that Larson died of gunshot wounds, Kemmy said.

Larson allegedly was driving a stolen car about 1 a.m. Monday when police spotted him. A three-minute chase ensued through downtown Salem at speeds of 30 to 50 mph.

The stolen 1989 Honda Civic eventually crashed into a stop sign at Liberty and Grove streets NE.

The crash didn’t stop Larson, who kept driving and hit at least one other car, officials said.

Police said the driver’s “subsequent actions placed officers at the scene in imminent danger,” resulting in officers Rogers Smith and Laura Seefeldt firing their duty weapons. No new information about what happened immediately before the shooting was released Tuesday.

Witnesses said the driver put the car in reverse and apparently was headed toward police officers.

Photos of the Honda show bullet holes in the windshield. Officers provided emergency medical aid, but Larson died at the scene.

His family is trying to piece together what happened leading up the shooting. They went to the scene of the shooting Tuesday night, seeking closure.

They called Dru Larson sweet, kind and loving. He liked football, video games and fixing cars.

Dru Larson had two sisters and a brother. He grew up in Tillamook and graduated from Tillamook High School in 2007, said his sister, Brandi Larson of Dallas.

“We’ve gotten more than 100 text messages from (people in) Tillamook,” Jane Larson said. “He will be missed.”

He moved to Salem in 2009 to be closer to family and to get out of the small-town lifestyle.

Dru Larson was homeless but stayed with Brandi Larson and his mom at times. He spent the last five days of his life with Brandi Larson.

“He always told me, chin up,” she said.

Dru Larson struggled with a methamphetamine addiction but had been clean for three weeks before the shooting, Jane and Brandi Larson said.

“That’s why we can’t imagine this,” Jane Larson said. “It doesn’t make sense.”

Dru Larson never carried weapons, they said, questioning why officers used deadly force.

“My son, I feel, was a victim,” Jane Larson said. “And until I find out the whole truth, I won’t rest.”

Larson has about 10 misdemeanor convictions in Marion, Polk and Tillamook counties. In April, he was convicted of identity theft, a felony, in Polk County and sentenced to probation and community service.

The officers involved in the shooting have been put on paid administrative leave, which is standard procedure after an officer-involved shooting.

Senate Bill 111 establishes a procedure after officer-involved shootings.

Oregon State Police and the Marion County District Attorney’s Office are investigating Monday’s incident.

Kemmy said information will go before a grand jury, which will determine whether charges are necessary and whether the officers were justified in using deadly force.

Smith has been a Salem police officer since 2006. Seefeldt was hired with the department in 2000 after working as an Independence police officer for about six years.

Smith previously was cleared in a shooting that wounded Rockne Mack Nickell of Salem in March 2007. Nickell allegedly threatened neighbors with a knife and confronted police with what turned out to be a pellet gun.

According to a state police investigation, Smith thought he was shooting Nickell with his Taser but instead fired his gun.