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Orem police officer who shot woman in chin won’t face charges

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Orem Police Chief Gary Giles speaks about an officer-involved shooting during a press conference at Orem City Hall in Orem on Wednesday, May 13, 2020. Julia Jones was shot in the jaw when the driver of the truck she was riding in allegedly tried to run over a police officer, who fired at the vehicle.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

OREM — An Orem police officer who shot a passenger in a truck that he claimed tried to run him over, will not face criminal charges.

The Utah County Attorney’s Office on Thursday announced that after reviewing the May shooting, “including watching the (body camera) video, it is clear that the officer complied with the laws that govern the use of force. The Utah County Attorney’s Office will not seek criminal charges against the officer in this matter.”

The May 8 shooting originally garnered controversy when the victim’s family claimed that Orem police weren’t acknowledging that they had shot someone.

On that day, Julia Jones, 24, of Orem, was the passenger in a pickup truck being driven by Samantha Bencomo, 28, of Nephi. Police had been looking for the driver of the pickup for allegedly causing an earlier accident and fleeing from officers. 

The truck was spotted at the intersection of 800 North and 800 West, where Orem police officer Jordan Seely positioned his vehicle in front of the pickup so Bencomo could not go forward. The officer then got out of his car to confront the driver.

Bencomo reacted by making a gesture with her hand, as if waving the officer to come forward before the truck suddenly sped forward, according to police.

“The driver accelerated and made what appears to be a deliberate attempt to turn sharply into the officer in an attempt to hit the officer,” Orem Police Chief Gary Giles said in May as he narrated body camera video for the media.

Seely reacted by pulling out his gun and firing at least two rounds as he was hit by the fleeing pickup.

Seely was not knocked over despite being hit, and was able to get back into his patrol car and chase after the pickup truck, which he lost sight of, the chief said.

Jones was shot in the chin and taken to a local hospital in critical condition on May 8. But until that news conference on May 13, Orem police had not acknowledged that they had shot anyone.

Giles said it was unclear at that time whether Jones’ injuries were caused by the shooting or the crash that happened a short time later. Although a police officer reported that night that no one had been hospitalized, the chief said the officer believed he was being asked whether any police officers had been hospitalized.

Jones’ family felt police should have acknowledged right away that their loved one had been shot and injured.

Bencomo, who is charged with attempted aggravated murder, a first-degree felony, and assault on a police officer, a second-degree felony, is scheduled to be back in court on Aug. 5.

Jones, who was not charged in connection with the incident, was convicted in a separate drug possession case in March. She was sentenced on June 30 to 35 days in jail, which the court is allowing her to serve through home confinement, and two years of probation.