A police officer in Washington state has been charged with murder in connection with the fatal shooting of a disorderly conduct suspect last year,
A police officer in Washington state has been charged with murder in connection with the fatal shooting of a disorderly conduct suspect last year, prosecutors announced Thursday.
Auburn officer Jeff Nelson faces second-degree murder and second-degree assault charges in the death of Jesse Sarey.
Nelson shot Sarey twice — once in the head — on May 31, 2019, outside a grocery store as he tried to arrest him for disorderly conduct, King County prosecuting attorney Dan Satterberg said during a virtual news conference.
“Officer Nelson went hands-on with Mr. Sarey in just 38 seconds and Mr. Sarey was fatally shot 29 seconds later,” Satterberg said.
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Witnesses said Sarey went on a tirade at one store and continued inside a small grocery store across the street, prompting Nelson to initiate an arrest, Satterberg said.
He showed a series of surveillance videos of the events leading up to the shooting. In one, Nelson threw seven punches toward Sarey’s head and upper body, while another showed him pushing the suspect against a freezer box and drawing his weapon.
“Officer Nelson fires one shot into Mr. Sarey’s torso,” Satterberg said. “He then clears a round that jammed in his pistol and he fired a second shot into Mr. Sarey’s forehead.
“We allege that officer Nelson’s actions with respect to both shots were unreasonable,” he added.
Nelson’s prosecution will be the first of a police officer for Satterberg’s office since the 2018 passing of Initiative 940, which lowers the bar for prosecuting officers who use deadly force. The law gives juries an increased role in deciding when the use of deadly force by law enforcement constitutes a crime.
Prior to the law, prosecutors were required to prove that an officer acted with “malice” and a “lack of good faith,” which was “essentially an impossible standard to meet,” Satterberg said.
He said the murder charge is related to the first shot, which ultimately caused Sarey’s death. The assault charge stems from the shot to the head, which was determined to not have been the fatal shot.
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Investigators consulted use-of-force experts from other states to understand police tactics and the new legal standard, Satterberg said.
They determined Nelson “created the very situation that brought about his use of deadly force,” Statterberg said.
Prosecutors will not seek to detain Nelson during the court proceedings, but will ask a judge to prohibit him from possessing firearms.