One week after being shot outside his Fayettville residence in his driveway by police, close friends and peers have come forward to share about the person they knew and loved. They called him a soldier who would never bring harm to anyone, who led a life of service. Friends are hoping for some answers soon to clear his name.
Staff Sgt. Mark Salazar, a graphic illustrator for the Army Special Operations Command's 4th Military Information Support Group, is already missed and the circumstances surrounding his death have left many perplexed.
"I worked with a few years ago and he was not the kind of person to disobey a directive. I am not sure what happened that early morning but I do know that this man accomplished a great many things because of his discipline and attention to detail," said Victor Gardner, a close friend. "Eating 'Rice Crispy Treats' and the ability to draw, take pictures to tell the story of an event is what he did best and liked to do. His child was his light and inspiration to move forward in his career. Salazar's life positively impacted more people than the average person, because of the type of person he was."
"Reading about the occurrence that night saddens me to my core. Mark was a stand up guy...quiet to newcomers..definitely an observer..extremely level headed..funny..and never perceived by anyone as a threat. His character is totally opposite from what he has been accused of," said a friend, Dionna Moore. "Everyone that knew him is beyond shocked that this is how he went. Extremely taken aback that someone so amazing could ever be perceived in this light...this was not his role..he ABSOLUTELY wasn't a gun shooting gangster..or a hot headed trigger happy soldier..he was a neighbor, a friend, a father, and someone's son."
Another anonymous friend who grew up on the same street as Mark Salazar wanted others to know that Salazar would be the exact soldier, friend, mentor, son, schoolmate, co-worker...that they have all lost. His friend hates reading that any of this even happened knowing that he has never, nor was a trouble maker, but yet a boy that over the years grew into a loving, gentle, mature man.
"Whichever officer shot him, I pity him," said Salazar's friend. "He took a great man away from so many who loved him for the person he was and was growing to be.This is sincerely such a shame. I stand firm in the belief that there had to be some misunderstanding."
"There is not one single person that knows Mark that would agree to the comment made: "he aimed his gun towards the officers". Yet that is neither here or there now... I write this email to shine some light on a person known and loved by everyone. I hope that people hear about this story and also come forth with more knowledge about this man we lost," he said.
Professional peer, Samantha Ciaramitaro says Salazar was her professional mentor. "SSG Mark Salazar was an amazing leader and an amazing friend. He was a mentor to myself and many others. I will never believe the story of what happened with mark. A police officer can see more dead bodies and go through more than a soldier in his own home environment... Police forces have been corrupt before... so who says that they don't have PTSD and flipped, Who says they didn't bribe so called witnesses that there was and now there are none, Who says that someone just blamed the random shots on mark because he was of a different ethnicity, or because he was a large built guy? Who was there.... I am from a place where someone always sees what is going on if you hear a shot most people hide but the others watch. There is someone out there who knows what really happens. I don't know a single person who dislikes Mark. We are a small field in the military, Graphic artists, combat documentation production specialists, broadcast journalists and photojournalists. We all go through the same school house and we all run into each other through out our years in service weather we are active, reserves, national guard or Army, Airforce, Marines, Navy or Coast Guard. we all run into each other we all work together at some point or another, and anyone who has ever got blessed with working with mark will say the same thing, Loving, Caring, Teacher. He didn't just know his job but he knew ours he was Knowledgeable of the army and of all of are jobs, Mark was my mentor! I never saw him throw a fit or get angry... we all get aggravated at the military and that's all I ever saw from him. There are many news reports out there and I don't believe any of them."
Salazar was born in Germany and grew up in Fayetteville. He attended Pembroke University on a basketball scholarship and graduated with a bachelor's degree in Mass Communications and Journalism in 2007.
He entered the U.S. Army in August 2007 as a Combat Documentary Production Specialist and later transitioned to Multi-Media Illustrator.
Salazar's first duty assignment was with the 55th Signal Company (Combat Camera) at Fort Meade, Md., from October 2008 to March 2011. He served as a Combat Documentary Specialist and Multi-Media Illustrator. He completed two combat tours in Afghanistan from 2008 -2009.
In April 2011 he was assigned to 7th Military Information Support Battalion (Airborne), where he served as a Senior Multi-Media Illustrator.
Salazar's military education includes the Warrior Leader Course, Basic Airborne School, Army Combatives Level I-III, Air Assault Course, Digital Multi-Media Course, and Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) 225.
Salazar's awards and decorations include the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Joint Service Achievement Medal, the Army Achievement Medal with one oak leaf cluster, the Army Superior Unit Award, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Afghan Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, the Army Service Ribbon, and the NATO Medal. He also earned the Combat Action Badge, Basic Parachutist Badge, and Air Assault Badge.
Salazar is survived by his four year old son, Malik A. Salazar of Jacksonville, Fla. He was preceded in death by his mother, Olive Faye Owens-Salazar of Pelzer, S.C., and his father, Mark L. Salazar of Butte, Mont.