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Suspect in Court in Officer-Involved Shooting Case

By: Val Thompson Email
By: Val Thompson Email

July 2, 2013

The man who was shot by an Albemarle County police officer was in court Tuesday afternoon to face charges of attacking that officer.

Josue Salinas Valdez was shot in front of his home on May 26 by officer William Underwood. Salinas Valdez spent more than a week in the hospital.

"Pretty substantial internal injuries," said attorney Greg Webb, who represented Salinas Valdez in court on Tuesday. "Luckily he's recovering fairly well."

Investigators say it was Salinas Valdez's own fault that he got shot. Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Chapman says Salinas Valdez was threatening an officer with a baton and ignored multiple requests to stop, even after officers used a taser.

Albemarle County Police Chief Steve Sellers says his officers are trained to try several other methods before pulling the trigger.

"They're (trained) at first to use their most significant weapon that's on their tool belt," said Sellers. "That is their mouth. Unfortunately, it doesn't always work."

The grand jury cleared officer Underwood of any wrong-doing, and chose not to bring charges against him. However, the police department is still doing an internal investigation into the incident, and Underwood remains on administrative leave.

Webb says, the officer's account is not the only version of this story.

"A lot needs to be determined about what occurred in the moments before the shooting and about why the shooting occurred," Webb said. "Specifically why the officer determined that it was necessary to shoot Mr. Valdez at that time."

The grand jury listened to audio from a police dashboard camera, and Chapman says that recording confirmed that Underwood warned Salinas Valdez several times before pulling the trigger.

Sellers says those cameras are critical to internal investigations.

"We get a complaint on an officer for being rude," said Sellers. "We'll pull the tape and review it and we find that nine times out of ten, maybe even more than that, it indicates that the officer was not in the wrong."

Webb says Salinas Valdez is anxious to have his version of the story told at the trial.

"Mr. Salinas is looking forward to clearing his name," Webb said.

In court, Webb asked for two more weeks for Salinas Valdez to find a defense attorney. Webb specializes in personal injury cases, and emphasized that he will not be the defense attorney for Salinas Valdez in the criminal trial. Webb said there is the possibility of a civil trial, depending on the direction of the criminal investigation.

Salinas Valdez is due back in court on July 16.

In court on Tuesday, he was ordered to turn in his passport, because the prosecution expressed concerns that he may try to flee to his native Mexico.

Webb says Salinas Valdez is cooperating with the investigation, and would not run away. Webb says, even though Salinas Valdez is a citizen of Mexico, "he has all of his paperwork to work and be a resident of the United States."

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