Woman shot in the face by Orem police officer, her family says

(Photo courtesy Dale and Laura Jones) Julia Jones rests in a hospital bed at Utah Valley Hospital after her family says she was shot by Orem police on Friday, May 8, 2020.

An Orem police officer shooting at a truck to stop the driver struck a passenger in the face, according to the injured woman’s family.

Orem police have said a police officer discharged his weapon Friday night, but have not confirmed or commented on whether anyone was hit. The department has said only that an officer fired before a vehicle chase that ended in a wreck near 1600 North and Interstate 15.

Police arrested the driver, Sam Bencomo. Bencomo’s court documents do not mention an officer firing a gun.

But four family members of Julia Jones said she was a passenger in Bencomo’s vehicle, and was hit in the jaw by police gunfire and admitted to a hospital.

Jones’ mom, Cassandra Lozonne of Fresno, Calif., said she learned her daughter had been shot when she got a call from her son, who lives in Lehi, and had heard from his stepmom. “And from that moment on it’s been kind of a bad dream,” Lozonne said.

Laura Jones, Jones’ stepmother, said Jones is expected to recover, but that it could take weeks. She said police came to her home in Orem on Friday night and told them Julia Jones had been shot.

So far, family hasn’t been able to talk to Jones or visit because of coronavirus restrictions on hospital visitors, Laura Jones said.

Orem Police Chief Gary Giles declined to comment on the case Sunday, saying the department would release more information Monday.

Court documents detailing Bencomo’s arrest give some insight into what happened that night.

Several blocks from the crash site, a pickup truck backed into a Jeep Wrangler at Leiva Motors, a dealership near 1150 N. State St. The business owner tried to confront the driver, but the driver — allegedly Bencomo — drove away and the owner followed, according to a probable cause statement.

The business owner told police the driver crashed into a cinder block wall but kept driving. He followed the truck from there to a gas station at 1091 N. State St. A police officer also pulled in, and the business owner flagged him down.

When the officer tried talk to the truck’s driver, Bencomo allegedly drove away, documents state.

Police caught up with the truck near 800 N. 800 West. An officer turned on his lights and tried to stop the truck by pulling in front of it.

He got out of his car, and Bencomo “is clearly seen making a visible hand gesture to the Orem police officer in what appears to be an acknowledgement of his presence,” documents said.

Police said Bencomo put the truck in reverse, then accelerated forward and swerved toward the officer. When he jumped out of the way, police allege, Bencomo changed directions and tried to hit him again.

Bencomo allegedly fled again after that, but was arrested by police soon after the truck crashed at 980 W. 1600 North, the documents state.

The Tribune has also spoken to Jones’ brother, who asked not to be identified, and her father, Dale Jones.

Dale Jones said, “It is just amazing how they failed to mention someone was shot. Pretty convenient of them.”

Family members tried to talk to Jones on Sunday morning, but said hospital staff had to put her back to sleep because of irritation from a ventilator tube.

“We just want [police] to admit that there was a passenger, and in the shooting, she was the one shot,” Laura Jones said.

Bencomo remains in jail on suspicion of attempting to murder a police officer, a first-degree felony, and two misdemeanors. It’s not clear if police are recommending any charges be filed against Jones.