Bus video shows officers fire 68 rounds at suspect after he took keys from a 79-year-old at gunpoint
An armed Michael J. Compton tried to commandeer one car, yanked keys for another car at gunpoint from a 79-year-old woman and led police on a foot chase in a south Salem business district before dying in a gun battle in which police officers struck him 18 times to stop him, the Marion County District Attorney’s Office said in a news release Friday, Feb. 3.
A Marion County grand jury on Friday unanimously found that five Salem police officers were justified in shooting and killing Compton on Monday, Jan. 23, in a morning gunfight at one of Salem’s busiest commercial districts.
A statement released Thursday evening by the office of District Attorney Paige Clarkson said the officers fired 68 shots at Compton after he ran from and then shot at officers as children on a school bus watched.
Eighteen bullets struck Compton, and an autopsy found he died from gunshot wounds to his back.
At 9:02 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 23, the Salem police received a 911 call reporting that someone had attempted to steal a car at gunpoint in the parking lot of Walmart, 5250 Commercial St. S.E.
At the time, Haley Lyons was driving on the west side of the Walmart parking lot with her passenger, Cooper Pietrok, when a man jumped in front of their vehicle and pointed a gun at them.
The man, later identified as Compton, 27, told them to “get out of the car” and “I’m going to shoot.”
Pietrok described the gun as small, black and semiautomatic. He told Lyons to “floor it,” and Compton jumped to the side of the car as it quickly accelerated south in the parking lot. Then, Pietrok called 911.
Meantime, Compton walked to the parking lot of Planet Fitness, 5240 Commercial St. S.E. Lyons and Pietrok at the time were still in the parking lot, watching Compton from a distance, and described him as “zigzagging” through the parking lot while looking into vehicles.
When Compton saw a responding police vehicle, he started running toward Planet Fitness, Pietrok recounted.
Joan Riley, 79, was entering Planet Fitness to meet friends for their regular workout. She had her keys around her wrist when Compton stepped into the entryway and approached Riley from behind. He grabbed at her keys and said “give me your keys” three or four times. Riley held onto them.
As Compton continued pulling on Riley’s keys, he also grabbed her wrist, pulling her outside, a scene caught on the business video. Riley began to scream “Help!”, and several gym employees and patrons chased Compton into the parking lot as he made off with Riley’s keys.
She was injured during the incident, as her right middle fingernail was bent back and bleeding, according to the statement.
Officer Robert Acosta of the Salem Police Department by then had responded to the Planet Fitness parking lot and saw Riley being attacked. He turned on his lights and sirens and tried to get his patrol car between Compton and people in the parking lot.
As Compton ran, he threw Riley’s keys over his shoulder.
Acosta could see that Compton was holding something in the front pocket of his hooded sweatshirt. The officer watched and pursued as Compton crossed Commercial Street. Compton alternated between walking and jogging, headed north on the sidewalk toward the intersection of Southeast Barnes Avenue and Commercial Street.
This area is a busy intersection, particularly at that time of day. Commercial Street is the major thruway into downtown Salem from south Salem, with heavy traffic, several businesses, restaurants, at least one coffee shop and “numerous pedestrians” nearby, the district attorney’s office said. . There is also a city bus stop about 20 yards from the intersection of Commercial and Barnes.
Acosta drove his patrol car north on Commercial and pulled into the southbound lanes, blocking the lanes in an effort to stop Compton. Emergency lights and the siren had been activated on the patrol car.
Compton walked west down a berm into a Napa Auto Parts parking lot, 5105 Commercial St. S.E.
“At the time of his attempted stop, Officer Acosta was considering the pedestrian traffic at that busy intersection; that Compton matched the description of the armed, attempted carjacking suspect from the Walmart parking lot; and that he saw Compton attack Riley in the entrance way of Planet Fitness,” the district attorney’s statement said.
Another officer, Reece “Dru” Mathis, had responded to the carjacking call.
As he was responding, dispatchers relayed updates over his radio about the Planet Fitness incident and said Compton appeared to be carrying a gun, the statement said. When Mathis arrived at the intersection of Barnes and Commercial, he saw a school bus directly ahead of where Compton was going. Mathis stopped his patrol vehicle just south of the yellow school bus.
Mathis ordered Compton to “Stop!” and “Show me your hands!” Compton replied “No.”
He saw Compton take cover between two vehicles in the Napa Auto Parts parking lot.
“Compton pulled a small, black, semi-automatic handgun from the front of his sweatshirt, pointed it at the officers and opened fire,” according to the statement.
Compton ran towards the auto parts store entrance while firing over his shoulder at Acosta. He and Mathis by then were returning fire.
“Compton appeared to get hit in the leg and fell behind a white Jaguar sedan parked near the front of the Napa Auto parts store. When he fell, Compton dropped his handgun,” the district attorney’s office said.
A driver was sitting in the Jaguar at the time and ducked down as the gunfire broke out.
More Salem police arrived.
“As they responded, Compton picked up his handgun, sat up, and again opened fire toward the police,” according to the statement. “Over the next 33 seconds, Compton twice more attempted to sit up and shoot police officers. In total, five Salem police officers fired at Compton, who never followed commands, showed his hands, dropped the gun, nor made any motions to surrender.”
The entire exchange of gunfire – starting with Compton pointing his firearm at the officers and ending when officers stopped firing – lasted about 50 seconds.
In total, Acosta fired 29 rounds and Mathis fired 26.