Quileute woman sentenced to six years in prison after ramming police chief vehicle

LA PUSH — A six-year prison sentence was imposed on a 33-year-old Quileute tribal member who stole a car before repeatedly ramming La Push Police Chief Bill Lyon’s patrol vehicle during a chase on the reservation April 11.

Juanita Elena Penn-Salazar, 33, was sentenced Friday in U.S. District Court in Tacoma after pleading guilty Sept. 18 to assault on a federal officer and theft of a stolen vehicle, offenses that began at the tribally-owned Lonesome Creek Store.

U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton also recommended to the Bureau of Prisons that Penn-Salazar serve her time at the low-security Federal Correctional Institution for female inmates at Dublin, Calif.

Two additional charges of assault with a deadly weapon and an additional count of assault on a federal officer were dismissed.

Penn-Salazar is expected to be in prison at least until April 2023 when factoring in time she has already served and potential credit for good time for not committing offenses while in prison.

The federal prison system does not have parole.

Leighton also imposed three years of supervised release following the prison term.

Penn-Salazar also must participate in a program for treatment of narcotic addiction, drug dependency or substance abuse and in a mental health program. Restitution will be determined, according to court records.

When arrested, she told authorities she had been using methamphetamine.

Toxicology reports show she was under the influence of methamphetamine and marijuana during the chase, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle.

According to the federal complaint, the incident began when a woman called 9-1-1 at 6:18 a.m. April 11 to report Penn-Salazar was trying to steal her 2015 Toyota Camry from the convenience store.

It included a 30-minute chase, speeds of more than 80 mph, and Forks Community Hospital treatment of Lyon for back and neck injuries and treatment of the vehicle owner for a shoulder injury she sustained after Penn-Salazar grabbed her shoulder and demanded she drive away.

The woman, who had invited Penn-Salazar into her car to get out of the rain, ran into the store to call for help, leaving Penn-Salazar to argue with an occupant of the vehicle — Penn-Salazar’s uncle.

Penn-Salazar broke the rear window from the outside with a log and sped away alone in the vehicle.

Responding to the incident, Lyon saw Penn-Salazar leave a tribal subdivision before she rammed him as he passed by the subdivision, tried ramming him while chasing him.

Lyon turned his car around and got behind her, driving through the reservation at up to 82 mph for 15 minutes before she turned into the La Push Police Department parking lot.

As Lyon approached the parking lot, she rammed Lyon’s vehicle again, then struck Lyon’s vehicle a third time after he drew his handgun and told her to show her hands.

Penn-Salazar pushed Lyon’s vehicle across the intersection, rendering Lyon unable to get out of the vehicle and injuring him.

As Penn-Salazar fled, she tried running over a La Push police officer who was deploying tack strips to stop the vehicle she had pirated.

He jumped out of the way to avoid being struck, according to court documents.

Penn-Salazar also tried to ram a State Patrol trooper’s vehicle.

Shortly after she lost use of the front driver’s side tire, she crashed the stolen vehicle into a phone terminal box next to the La Push Police Station.

She was combative while being taken into custody. Authorities used a stun gun multiple times to subdue her before her arrest, according to court documents.

The Quileute Tribal Court had issued an arrest warrant for Penn Salazar the day before the incident for prior violations that included taking a motor vehicle without the owner’s consent.

The La Push Police Department employs police officers, including Lyon, with funding and authority from federal Bureau of Indian Affairs.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].

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