Puyallup tribal member Jacqueline Salyers was pregnant when a Tacoma police officer shot her dead on January 28, an autopsy shows. “He murdered two people, not one,” said Salyers’s uncle James Rideout. “As the news of Jackie’s pregnancy has spread, tribal members and the Tacoma community at large are deeply shocked.”
Even worse, said Rideout, who is acting as family spokesperson, the Tacoma Police Department did not tell the family of the pregnancy when it released Salyers’s body for burial. “We couldn’t lay her child to rest properly as well. If all lives matter, then the life of Jackie’s unborn baby should matter, too.”
Salyers’s family and friends have held two emotional meetings to plan a march from the Puyallup Tribe of Indians homeland to a federal courthouse and police station. The event will begin at 11 a.m. on March 16 at 3009 East 30th Street, in Tacoma. “We will march down state route 509, which is a direct connection from the rez to downtown,” said Rideout. “That means we will shut down a major highway. Someone told us, ‘you don’t want to do that.’ Well, we do.” For more information, go to the family’s Facebook page, Justice for Jackie.
Salyers’s extended family has not been able to grieve in the traditional manner, said Rideout, and that has added to the tragedy. “Normally, at this point, we would have put away the photos and mementoes of the person and after a year would have a giveaway to honor them. But this time, we have to constantly relive, rehash, discuss, figure out everything about Jackie’s death. This is the first time a tribal member has been shot by the Tacoma police. What is the best way to move forward? We’re on edge. But we’re not going away.”
As devastated as Salyers’s family and friends have been, they are hoping to expose police misconduct and improve police-community relations, said Rideout. “People from other vulnerable communities have come to our march-planning meetings and told their stories. We never asked to be a part of this, but we see that what happened to Jackie is happening to others. Somehow, some good has to come out of this.”
According to the Tacoma Police Department, Salyers’s death occurred when Officers Scott Campbell and Aaron Joseph spotted fugitive felon Kenneth Wright in the passenger seat of Salyers’s parked car. The officers stopped their vehicle, and approached the parked car on foot.
According to the department, Salyers then accelerated her car at the officers and Campbell shot her, which caused the car to stop. Wright fled, armed with a rifle. He was apprehended in the Tacoma area on February 15 and is being held on robbery, firearms and drugs charges.
Salyers’s family has challenged the scenario offered by the police. Rideout noted that Associated Press photographs of Salyers’s vehicle do not show gunshot damage to the driver’s side of the windshield, which might indicate someone shooting at a car heading toward him. Instead, the damage is to both sides of the car and to the passenger side of the windshield.
Another uncle, Steve Rideout, pointed out that disabling a driver doesn’t stop a vehicle. “It keeps rolling until it crashes, and there’s no sign that happened.”
More doubts about the police account arose when family members prepared Salyers’s body for burial and discovered multiple injuries. Salyers had been shot in the right temple, near the hairline, and in the right arm; a bullet had grazed her left hand; her right arm was broken, though not by a bullet; and her face was sprinkled with what appeared to be gunshot residue, said cousin Gina Gilman.
“How did all these things happen?” asked James Rideout. “To this day, no one in the police department has contacted us or said one word to us. We want answers.”
Police spokesperson Loretta Cool did not respond to an ICTMN request for a comment on these anomalies in the official account. Cool has told ICTMN that the Tacoma Police Department will release more information when its investigation of the incident is complete. The officers involved were placed on leave but are now back on duty.