OGDEN -- Veronica Jensen said she never thought Jason Valdez would hurt her during an armed standoff with police this weekend, but she said Monday she felt police treated her more like a possible accomplice than a crime victim when the ordeal ended with Valdez's suicide attempt.
Jensen's involvement started Friday evening when she ran into Valdez at the Western Colony Inn on 24th Street. She thought she would go to his room to call his sister, with whom Jensen is friends, because although she had met Valdez a few times, she didn't know him well.
But they couldn't reach the sister, Jensen said, so she went to leave his room. Just then, police cars pulled into the hotel parking lot. Valdez told her to come back into the room for a couple of minutes, so he could see if the cops were there for him.
Officers tried to serve Valdez with a felony drug-related warrant. When police asked him to come out peacefully, Jensen said, Valdez refused, pulled out his 9mm handgun and told officers he wasn't coming out and he now had a hostage with him: her.
Valdez then fired a shot, but not at the officers, Jensen said.
"He fired at something in the room," she said. "It was just a warning. He said, 'This is just a warning.' "
Jensen said Valdez never hurt her during the overnight standoff and she never felt like she was in danger at his hands. She said that after police shut off the power, water, and gas, Valdez requested that they send water for her to make her more comfortable.
"We had nothing," she said. "He asked them to send up at least one bottle of water.
He told them, 'If you let me talk to my son, we would both walk out of here and no one would be hurt.' That's all he wanted, to be able to talk to his 14-year-old son."
Jensen said they didn't get any water and Valdez wasn't given the chance to call his son.
So they waited.
Jensen said the second floor room they were in was pitch black after the power was cut and Valdez pushed everything inside of the room against the door and windows.
She said he asked her to help him push the dresser, the refrigerator, pictures -- anything that would move -- against the windows and doors.
"He asked me to help," she said. "He was never actually violent towards me, it was more toward the cops. I just did what he said, anyway. I didn't know what to do."
While they waited throughout the night in the darkened room, Jensen said they talked most of the night.
"We just pretty much sat there all night," she said. "We talked about a lot of things. We talked about our kids, our families, what we could have changed in our lives to make things different."
Jensen had been released from the Weber County Jail just last week, she said, after serving time on drug-related charges. Valdez told her he had been locked up for the last seven years and wasn't ready to go back yet.
She said she asked him several times throughout the 16-hour standoff if they could leave.
"I didn't ask him if could (go), I asked him if we could go," she said. "Him and I. He would say, 'Don't worry, it's all going to be over soon. Everything is going to be over.' "
But Saturday morning, Jensen said, communication broke down. He tried to let her go, but once they saw cops from the window, Jensen said Valdez would "freak out" and refuse to open the door and let her go.
Jensen said the police negotiators began frustrating her as well, because all Valdez wanted was to talk to his son. He had spoken with the rest of his family and children, and wanted to tell his son he was sorry he let him down.
"I felt like they were playing a game with my life," Jensen said about law enforcement. "There was no reason they couldn't take that boy a phone and let him talk to his dad. It would have never gone that far if they would have just let him talk to his son."
End of standoff
At about 9 a.m. Saturday, Weber County SWAT members moved into the room and detonated a stun grenade. Jensen and Valdez fled to the bathroom. Once Valdez saw that she was in the tub, he left the room, fired the gun in the bedroom area and retreated into the bathroom.
"He fell in the tub on top of my legs," Jensen said. "He just grabbed the gun, and put it on him. I tried to stop him. Right as I went to get up, he pulled the trigger."
Jensen said she felt that Valdez believed he wasn't going to leave the room alive on Saturday morning, that police would shoot and kill him once they entered the room.
"After he shot himself, he was able to say a couple of things," Jensen said. "All he said was please make sure my kids know that I love them, and I'll be OK."
Lt. Danielle Croyle said Monday morning that Valdez was in stable but critical condition. He was scheduled to receive an MRI Monday and is under 24-hour surveillance.
Jensen said police eventually came into the room and yelled at Valdez to get off her legs, though she was yelling at them that he had shot himself.
"It was terrible," she said. "They grabbed me and yelled at me to move faster, but I didn't have any shoes on, and I was trying not to get cut (from broken window glass.)"
Jensen said she was taken to the police station in handcuffs, which is protocol in any standoff situation, said Lt. Shawn Hamblin. All of her belongings -- including more than $1,000 cash she had from her tax refund, her cell phone, several iPods, and jewelry -- were taken as evidence. She said the police were rude while questioning her, but she was released more than an hour later after they drew her blood for evidence.
She said she felt police were treating her like a suspect rather than a victim, and threatening to charge her with harboring a fugitive.
"I'm sure if it was somebody else who didn't have a criminal history in the past, it would have been something completely different," she said.
Now she is waiting until police release the belongings being processed as evidence. She said this leaves her in a tough spot because the tax return was all of the cash she had for herself and her children.
On Sunday night, she stayed at a local hotel room that her friend paid for.
"It's kind of hard to sit here and deal," she said Monday morning. "There's so many emotions, I don't know what to do. I just want to get maybe some counseling and move on with my life. I have three little boys I need to be a mother to. I have to try and figure out what I'm doing."