Washington Police Officer Jeffrey Nelson on Trial for Unjustified Use of Deadly Force

KENT, Wash. – The murder trial of Auburn Police Officer Jeffrey Nelson began on Thursday, with prosecutors arguing that Nelson used unnecessary deadly force when he shot and killed a man outside a convenience store in 2019. Nelson is accused of shooting Jesse Sarey twice while attempting to arrest him for disorderly conduct. This incident marks the third time Nelson has been involved in a fatal shooting during his time on duty in the past eight years.

Nelson’s defense attorney, Emma Scanlan, stated during the trial that Nelson mistakenly believed Sarey had grabbed a folding knife from him, leading to the use of deadly force. However, it was later revealed that the knife had actually fallen on the ground and was picked up by a witness. The case is significant as it is one of the first trials in Washington since a change in law in 2018 made it easier to charge police officers for the use of unreasonable or unnecessary force.

According to King County Special Prosecutor Angelo Calfo, Nelson disregarded his training which emphasized the importance of de-escalation and officer safety. Instead of waiting for backup, Nelson engaged Sarey directly, leading to a physical altercation which resulted in Sarey being shot. The prosecution argued that Nelson’s actions were unjustified and went against proper protocol.

The trial is expected to last several weeks, with Nelson himself expected to testify. The city of Auburn has already settled a civil rights claim with Sarey’s family for $4 million and has paid additional settlements related to Nelson’s actions as a police officer. Despite the incident, Nelson, an Iraq war veteran who joined the department in 2008, maintains his plea of not guilty to charges of second-degree murder and first-degree assault.

The case has raised questions about police training and the use of force, particularly in situations involving individuals with mental health issues. Nelson’s past involvement in fatal shootings has also come under scrutiny, with previous incidents involving the use of deadly force being cited during the trial. As the proceedings continue, the public and legal experts alike are closely watching the outcome of this high-profile case.