OREM — Laura Jones says she understands that mistakes are made in the heat of the moment.
She would just like Orem police to admit one was made.
“In this case, Julia was absolutely a victim,” Jones told the Deseret News. “She wasn’t trying to harm the officer.”
Friday night, Jones’ stepdaughter, Julia Jones, 24, was shot in the jaw by an Orem police officer, according to her family. Orem police declined comment on Monday, instead stating they will be holding a press conference at noon on Wednesday to discuss the officer-involved shooting.
Jones was in the passenger seat of a pickup truck driven by 28-year-old Samantha Bencomo. Bencomo was fleeing from police when an officer pulled in front of her vehicle at the intersection of 800 North and 800 West.
“Samantha is clearly seen making a visible hand gesture to the Orem police officer in what appears to be an acknowledgment of his presence. Samantha then backs up the truck, stops, then accelerates at a high rate of speed. As Samantha is accelerating, she swerves the truck toward the Orem police officer. As the officer side steps to avoid being hit, Samantha changes the direction of the truck toward the officer in a clear attempt to run him over. The officer was able to jump to the side but the front passenger side of the truck still struck him,” according to a police affidavit.
The officer was not seriously injured.
Bencomo was arrested a short time later, after crashing her vehicle, for investigation of attempted murder, leaving the scene of an accident and failure to stop at the command of a police officer.
But the affidavit does not mention the shooting, nor acknowledge Bencomo had a passenger. Orem Police Lt. Nick Thomas told reporters Friday that “an officer discharged his weapon.” And on their Facebook page Friday, Orem police posted “Officers are on scene of an officer-involved shooting which led to a vehicle chase that ended in the area of 1600 North near I-15.”
But no mention was made of anyone being injured or sent to the hospital.
“The Deseret News said no other people were involved and no one was injured,” Laura Jones said of the original story that was based on information received from police. “Well, yeah, there were other people involved, and she was injured in the shooting.”
About 1 a.m. Saturday, an Orem officer went to the Jones’ residence to tell them their daughter had been shot by an officer, Laura Jones said.
Laura Jones said her stepdaughter underwent surgery on Saturday and as of Monday was being heavily sedated by doctors at Utah Valley Hospital and had a breathing tube because her throat was so swollen. She and her husband cannot visit Julia Jones due to COVID-19 restrictions at the hospital. But they were able to FaceTime her on Sunday, Mother’s Day.
“We told her we love her,” Laura Jones said.
Now, the family would like Orem police to acknowledge that an officer shot Julia Jones.
“We’re very frustrated. Nobody is even acknowledging she was even there,” Laura Jones said. “We understand that mistakes happen. We just want them to acknowledge it was a mistake. We’re not looking to end anyone’s career. Just acknowledge what happened.”
She said if Bencomo was trying to hit the officer with her pickup, then the officer had every right to draw his weapon and even shoot. But the officer hit the passenger, not the driver, Laura Jones said.
Dale Jones, Julia’s father, expressed more anger on his Facebook page, however, accusing the Orem Police Department several times of lying.
“I’ve lost all respect for you all,” he wrote.
The Joneses said nurses have told the family that once Julia is released from the intensive care unit in about a week, she will be placed “in custody” of the police department and an officer will stand watch outside her door until she is discharged from the hospital.
“Really? You’re going to do that to her?” was Laura Jones’ reaction when she heard the news. “You’re going to take her into custody for what? I don’t know what they wanted her to do, jump out of the truck?”
Before the shooting, the pickup hit a cinder block wall at 400 W. 920 North while the owner of a car dealership was chasing them for allegedly hitting one of his cars. Laura Jones believes her stepdaughter may have been fighting with Bencomo inside the vehicle to get her to stop.
She said Julia Jones and Bencomo were married, but Jones had recently moved back home and was in the process of filing for divorce. Laura Jones said ever since Bencomo came into her stepdaughter’s life, she had been making a series of bad decisions. Unfortunately on Friday, she said Julia Jones “made a bad choice to see Sam that day.”
Bencomo’s criminal history includes retail theft, forgery and drug-related crimes, according to court records.