Attorney calls into question method police used to photo ID alleged hit-and-run driver

Posted 12/7/20

Two witnesses who identified the driver who was allegedly responsible for a hit-and-run crash in Port Townsend that left a Brinnon woman injured should not be allowed to point out the driver in …

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Attorney calls into question method police used to photo ID alleged hit-and-run driver


Two witnesses who identified the driver who was allegedly responsible for a hit-and-run crash in Port Townsend that left a Brinnon woman injured should not be allowed to point out the driver in court, according to the driver’s attorney.

Che Jonathan Salazar, 37, was arraigned for hit-and-run driving Oct. 16 in Jefferson County Superior Court after police said he caused a three-car collision outside Port Townsend and then fled from the scene.

Salazar, a Poulsbo resident, was heading south near the U-Haul business on Highway 20 when police said the 2012 Ford Focus he was driving smacked into the rear of a 2017 Chevrolet Colorado pickup as traffic slowed. The pickup then hit the back end of a 1993 Nissan Maxima.

The driver of the Nissan, a 56-year-old Brinnon woman, was taken by an aid car to Jefferson Healthcare Medical Center in Port Townsend with possible back injuries.

Witnesses at the scene of the Oct. 9 collision said the driver of the Ford that caused the crash ran away after the crash, but the man driving the Chevy pickup chased him through the woods nearby. 

The driver escaped, and a canine unit brought in from the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office couldn’t find him.

Salazar was picked up the next morning by a sheriff’s deputy who found Salazar walking along Jacob Miller Road near Discovery Bay Road.

He was arrested and charged in Jefferson County Superior Court with hit-and-run driving; possession of methamphetamine, with intent to manufacture or deliver a controlled substance; and possession of heroin, with intent to manufacture or deliver a controlled substance. 


Richard Davies, Salazar’s attorney, said in a motion filed in Superior Court that police used “an impermissibly suggestive identification process” when they asked witnesses to identify Salazar by using his Department of Licensing photo and another photo of Salazar that was taken when he was arrested the next day.

Davies, in his court filing Nov. 19, questioned whether the identification process was reliable and said it was suggestive and had a corrupting effect.

Such an identification process, Davies argued in court documents, violated Salazar’s right to due process.

A photo of Salazar during his arrest, which was submitted as an exhibit to Davies’ motion, shows Salazar apparently handcuffed behind his back and standing next to a patrol car with the text message, “Is this the suspect?”

“Oh yeah, that’s him,” the driver of the Chevrolet pickup truck said in a text answer.

The driver of the Chevy, who had chased the hit-and-run driver into the woods, had told police right after the crash that the fleeing man was bald with tattoos on his forehead.

The smartphone photo of Salazar that was used to identify him shows a man who matched the description the truck driver gave after the crash; of a man in his 30s who was bald with tattoos. 

The photo was shared with another witness with the question, “Is this the suspect?”

“Yes, that looks like him,” came the answer.


Davies asked that Salazar be released from jail on personal recognizance during his last court hearing Nov. 20.

“First, Che is a local kid,” Davies told the judge.

“He’s not really a kid anymore,” Davies quickly added of the 37-year-old, then recalled how he had represented Salazar “back in the olden days” when he had been charged for a crime as a juvenile.

“His mom still lives in the area; his sister lives in Poulsbo,” Davies said, and added that Jefferson County’s release would not mean Salazar walks free, as he remains on a federal retainer for probation violations.

Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Chris Ashcraft said he didn’t have an opinion on the request.

“I feel comfortable in PR’ing him knowing there are several other safety nets to catch him,” Ashcraft said.

Superior Court Judge Keith C. Harper, however, said he wanted to make sure Salazar would be present for any future court dates.

Davies suggested his client waive his right to a speedy trial, which had earlier been set for Dec. 7.

After Salazar agreed, Harper said the hearing on the request to suppress the photo identification in the case would be held Jan. 21, with the trial postponed to Feb. 22.


The search for Salazar in the woods along Highway 20 led police to discover items they believe Salazar dropped as he fled the crash scene.

After the crash, witnesses told police the fleeing hit-and-run driver was seen carrying an orange bag, and a white bag marked with a blue square.

Two bags were found in the woods, and one had three smaller bags inside. 

Inside that bag, officers found approximately
38.3 grams of heroin, as well as two bags of meth, with one containing 1.7 grams of meth, and another with 8 grams, plus 15 smaller baggies. 

Clothing and other personal items were also discovered in the bags, according to the Washington State Patrol’s probable cause statement for Salazar’s arrest.


Salazar was facing a felony charge of residential burglary in Kitsap County Superior Court at the time of his arrest in Port Townsend.

Prosecutors filed the charge in December 2019 after police were called to a fight in a trailer park in Poulsbo where Salazar had been living with his sister and her fiancée after his release from prison that August.

When officers arrived, his sister told police Salazar had moved in with the couple for a few weeks but it didn’t work out, so they kicked him out.

Salazar went back to the trailer and forced his way inside, then allegedly began fighting with his sister’s fiancée after he was asked to leave.

Salazar entered a pleading of not guilty in the case and his trial was originally set for Feb. 3, 2020.

According to court records, Salazar has a criminal history that stretches back to 1995, with three cases as a juvenile, followed by nine others as an adult in Jefferson, Kitsap and Thurston counties.

In his last prior conviction in Kitsap, Salazar was given five years in prison on charges of unlawful possession of a firearm, drug possession, and attempting to elude a police vehicle.