NORTH LIBERTY– Three North Liberty police officers placed on administrative leave after a fatal shooting on March 10, 2013, have been cleared through an investigation of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.
Johnson County Attorney Janet Lyness issued a press release last Friday with the findings of the investigation. It stated the officers acted with reasonable force in returning fire after being shot, and that they had no lesser course of action available to them at the time.
A synopsis of the incident indicates the following events transpired when police officer Sgt. Adam Olson, officer Christopher Shine and officer Cody Jacobsen responded to a 911 call about a domestic fight at 238 Holiday Lodge Road between the two residents of the home, 28-year-old Taleb Salameh and his girlfriend.
When officers arrived at about 5:53 p.m., the female resident was sitting outside on the ramp leading to the trailer home’s deck and front door, crying and red-faced, stating she wanted to get her belongings from inside the home. The officers asked her if it had been a physical fight and did not hear a response from her, but believed from her emotional state and redness to her face that it had been physical. The woman indicated that only Salameh was in the residence. The officers asked about weapons in the residence and the female replied she thought Salameh had removed his gun earlier that day.
The officers went to the front door and knocked. They saw a man, later identified as Salameh, inside the residence by the front door. An officer told him they needed to speak to him and directed him to open the door. Salameh said they could talk through the door. The officers repeated that he needed to open the door several times. One of the officers drew his Taser at this point, but none of the officers had firearms drawn. An officer told Salameh to get back because they were going to kick in the door.
When one officer kicked the door but failed to open it, Salameh yelled “de-escalate, de-escalate.” An officer saw Salameh run toward the back of the trailer. Approximately a second later, four shots were fired from inside the trailer through the door at the officers. One officer was hit in his chest but the ballistic vest he was wearing stopped the bullet from entering his body. This officer was able to back down the ramp and draw his weapon. Another officer was hit in the abdomen, also with a ballistic vest stopping the bullet.
During the shooting, the front door had opened. The officer who had drawn his Taser saw Salameh by the edge of the door and attempted unsuccessfully to shoot him with the Taser, then dropped the Taser and ran down the ramp. Salameh continued to shoot out of the trailer toward the deck. The officer radioed to the dispatcher that shots had been fired and they needed back up.
The third officer was in the corner of the deck with the ramp as the only available exit, which required him to go past the open front door. He moved in front of the door and fired his handgun multiple times, then ran off the deck down the ramp. He believed he had shot Salameh, but was not certain he was dead.
Once this officer was off the ramp, he realized he had been grazed by a bullet on the right side of his chest and was bleeding from his hand. He also received multiple injuries to his hand, later believed to be from shrapnel. One of the officers had also been shot through his pants leg.
Approximately 20 seconds transpired between the first shot fired by Salameh and the last shot fired.
The Johnson County bomb squad used a remote-controlled robot to enter the residence and use video to determine that Salameh was deceased.
The officers who were hit were transported by ambulance to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. They were treated for injuries sustained to the chest and abdomen through their ballistic vests. One officer was also treated for the injury to his side and to his hand. He continues to receive treatment for the injuries to his hand.
Salameh was also transported to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. A deputy State Medical Examiner performed an autopsy, which revealed that Salameh had been struck by bullets approximately seven times and died as a result of the injuries. The autopsy report is in the process of being completed.
Analysis of the crime scene showed that Salameh had fired 10 shots with a Beretta 9mm R-P handgun, and two loaded magazines of ammunition were found inside the mobile home, within feet of the door.
North Liberty Police Lt. Diane Venenga, currently serving as interim chief of the department, released this statement last Friday regarding the three officers who were injured, and the incident overall.
“We are very fortunate that three officers were not killed or severely injured. This was a tragic and unfortunate event resulting in a death, and our condolences go out to the families and loved ones of all involved. The North Liberty Police Department will be conducting an internal, additional review of this event and a review of our department policies, procedures, training and equipment. We want to ensure we have in place the best practices,” Venenga wrote.
Venenga indicated the three officers will be slowly integrated back to their patrol duties.
“We will set a timeline that is comfortable for each officer and the department,” she added.
According to Venenga’s statement, all three officers are valuable members of the North Liberty Police Department. Sgt. Olson, 34, graduated from the Iowa Law Enforcement academy in 2001 and joined the North Liberty department in 2003. In five years, he was promoted to sergeant. Sgt. Olson currently is a first-line supervisor for five full-time officers, a field training officer and the department’s training coordinator. He is also a certified ILEA instructor in defensive tactics and ASP baton.
Officer Shine, 26, started with the department in 2010 with previous law enforcement experience. He graduated from the police academy in 2008. He is an evidence technician and field training officer for the department. Shine is also a member of the Iowa Law Enforcement Network and has advanced training in the detection of narcotics.
Officer Jacobsen, 26, joined the department in January 2012 and attended the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy. Officer Jacobsen is the department’s CPR instructor, a standardized field sobriety test instructor and currently a paramedic in Johnson County.
The investigation report states the couple had moved to the Holiday Lodge mobile home park in January 2013. The person who called 911 on March 10 reported hearing yelling by the two people, and the man jumping on the woman’s car and yelling at the woman. The caller related that the police had been to 238 Holiday Lodge Road multiple times in the previous month. Officer Shine confirmed to dispatch en route to the residence that he had been to the mobile home in the last two weeks. Salameh, a native of Iowa City, was in the process of completing his engineering degree at the University of Iowa.
According to the report, the late Salameh and his girlfriend have a daughter together.
The investigation began immediately with the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation taking the lead. Physical evidence, including weapons, shell casings and bullets, were sent to the Division of Criminal Investigation Crime Laboratory in Ankeny for analysis. The investigation included interviews with witnesses, family and friends of Salameh, analysis of evidence found at the scene, review of the 911 calls, radio traffic with the Joint Emergency Communications Center, officers’ patrol car recordings, reports from of Salameh’s autopsy conducted by Deputy State Medical Examiner Dr. Dennis Firchau, and findings from the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigations Crime Laboratory.