Eugene man with mental illness dead in police shooting

Eugene Register-Guard, November 15, 2006

Eugene police fatally shot a 19-year-old man Tuesday who had threatened his parents with a knife during a violent rampage at the family home in the southwest hills.

An officer fired at the man after beanbag rounds failed to stop him from advancing on police with the knife, Eugene police Capt. Chuck Tilby said.

Ryan Stewart Salisbury, a 2005 graduate of Churchill High School, apparently suffered from bipolar disorder.

His mother called police at 2:47 a.m. from the family home on Skyview Lane and said her son had threatened to stab her and her husband, police said.

The family, including Salisbury’s two younger brothers and a young relative, locked themselves in a bedroom as Salisbury broke out windows and trashed the house.

Arriving officers immediately encountered Salisbury outside the house. He was armed with a large kitchen knife, Tilby said.

Officers repeatedly ordered him to drop the knife, but he did not comply, the captain said. Two officers, Rick Lowe and John Sharlow, fired the beanbag rounds at him as he advanced on police, but the less-lethal rounds had no effect, Tilby said.

A third officer, Shawn Trotter, fired his gun to stop Salisbury, who police said was posing an “immediate threat.” Salisbury fell at the bottom of the driveway.

He was pronounced dead at Sacred Heart Medical Center.

Police said Trotter fired “multiple” shots, but did not disclose the exact number.

The three officers involved were placed on administrative leave, a routine measure in all officer-involved shootings. Lowe has been with the department for almost five years, Sharlow for six years and Trotter for nearly three years.

An autopsy was under way later Tuesday, and the Lane County District Attorney’s Office was reviewing the case.

Tilby said people with knives are just as dangerous as people armed with guns, especially in close proximity.

“They can close that distance rapidly before you can react,” he said. “There’s nothing about a knife that is not lethal. And the fact of the matter remains that we tried options that were less-than-lethal force, and pretty soon you’re out of options when the threat continues and is getting closer.”

Contrary to what people might see on television and the movies, officers are not trained to shoot people in the arms or legs. Police aim with the goal of stopping the person.

“The hand shot and the leg shot work pretty well in Hollywood, but they don’t work in real life,” Tilby said.

Salisbury lived at home with his family. He was to be best man in his older brother’s December wedding.

He had recently quit a job as a busboy at Ocean Sky Chinese restaurant in Eugene and was taking a photography course at Lane Community College, friend Austin White, 19, said. White and three other teens gathered at Hawkins View Park across from the stately Salisbury home Tuesday to mourn the death of their friend.

“He and I both were going to go to Lane to start our EMT courses,” White said. “We both wanted to be firefighters.”

White said he and Salisbury met in the fifth grade at McCornack Elementary School and later competed in high school sports together. They were helping coach a rugby team at South Eugene High School. He said he had been out with Salisbury until about 2:30 a.m. Tuesday, when Salisbury’s mother picked them up at Fred Meyer on West 11th Avenue. She dropped White off and drove herself and her son home, White said.

Salisbury had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder about two years ago and was being treated for the illness, White said.

“He just had a lot of demons he was fighting,” he said. But to his knowledge, Salisbury had never before been violent or gotten in trouble with police, he said.

Police said Tuesday they had found no record of prior incidents involving Salisbury.

Next-door neighbor Bruce Wiechert said he awoke about 3 a.m. when gunshots shook his windows. He said about six police cars were in front of the Salisbury house, and he watched as paramedics loaded Salisbury into a waiting ambulance. Other neighbors in the area south of Hawkins Lane reported waking to the sound of gunfire, as well.

A group of more than a dozen people entered the house with a broom and empty boxes shortly before noon Tuesday. They were from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. One of the women said they were there to support the family.

Salisbury’s father, Jeffrey Salisbury, is a lawyer in town. His mother, Denise, stays at home. He was the second of four boys.

It was the first fatal police shooting in Eugene since Feb. 17, when Eugene officers Roy Wright and Pat Willis fatally shot Cliff Douglas Hall, 34, who had fired a 9 mm handgun at one of the officers in the backyard of the Ferry Street Bridge home he shared with his mother. Hall had long suffered from mental illness. Lane County District Attorney Doug Harcleroad deemed the shooting justified.

Elsewhere, Springfield police officers have fatally shot three people since June 2005, and Lane County sheriff’s deputies shot and killed a man involved in a domestic dispute on Aug. 9, 2005, in Elmira.

The district attorney’s office ruled all of the shootings justified.