Former Seattle Police Chief Jim Pugel has been retained as a key witness within the homicide prosecution of Auburn police Officer Jeffrey Nelson, able to testify that Nelson repeatedly escalated minor incidents into violent confrontations then used pointless or extreme drive to make an arrest.
Pugel, a 37-year legislation enforcement veteran who served as interim chief of the Seattle department after which as undersheriff in King County, was introduced on by prosecutors to assessment greater than 70 cases through which Nelson, an Auburn Okay-9 officer and Iraq Conflict fight veteran, reported or was investigated for utilizing drive on the job, courting to 2013. In line with his report, Pugel reviewed greater than 70 Auburn police use-of-force, inner affairs and officer studies, together with eyewitness accounts and dash-camera video.
Pugel, in a detailed 20-page report, recognized 17 cases when he thought of using drive “at greatest pointless and infrequently extreme or unconstitutional.”
In pleadings, prosecutors detailed 10 of these cases in an try and persuade the courtroom that Nelson usually “seize[d] alternatives to make use of violence towards individuals in routine encounters and infrequently to concoct excuses afterward.” The state says it’ll use video and “his personal phrases and actions” to exhibit.
Nelson, 42, with the Auburn police for 14 years, was charged in 2020 with second-degree murder and first-degree assault after he confronted Jesse Sarey, 26, sitting on a curb on Could 31, 2019, exterior an Auburn comfort retailer.
Nelson was responding to studies of disorderly conduct involving a person, Sarey, appearing unusually and throwing gadgets at automobiles and kicking buildings. Nelson bought right into a bodily combat with Sarey, and has stated Sarey tried to seize a folding knife out of his uniform vest and tried to get his gun.
Nelson fatally shot Sarey. Nelson was injured, however not shot.
Prosecutors need to submit proof to a jury, via Pugel, that they are saying exhibits Nelson has a sample of escalating easy, nonthreatening stops or investigations into incidents when he used important drive, together with releasing his police canine to detain and maul individuals suspected of crimes similar to theft or jaywalking earlier than making an arrest.
Nelson is the primary officer charged below a brand new police lethal drive legislation handed by the Washington Legislature that did away with the necessity to show “precise malice” by an officer with a view to cost him with murder.
Trial is anticipated subsequent spring.
King County Superior Courtroom Decide Nicole Gaines Phelps has taken the prosecution’s movement below advisement. She can be contemplating a request by protection legal professionals to submit proof of Sarey’s previous run-ins with police and intensive drug use to the jury.
Pugel’s report particulars a number of events of Nelson utilizing a “lateral vascular neck restraint” to subdue suspects wished for minor crimes or exhibiting passive resistance to arrest. Pugel factors out that the majority departments contemplate use of that method, which cuts off blood circulation to the mind and renders a person unconscious, as an software of lethal drive, the identical as taking pictures somebody.
The Washington Legislature final yr banned the use of LVNRs and chokeholds.
Pugel’s report is meant to bolster the state’s rivalry that Nelson “had a generally used plan to create opportunities and excuses to use violence during routine, unthreatening situations,” in keeping with pleadings filed in King County Superior Courtroom.
Among the many cases detailed was the Could 22, 2018, Okay-9 mauling of a juvenile suspect in a theft and automotive theft. In line with Pugel’s report, gleaned from dash-camera video and Auburn police and use-of-force studies, Nelson fist-bumped one other officer and yelled “[expletive] Yeah! Woo Hoo!” after the canine attacked the suspect, who had surrendered to different officers and was mendacity inclined on the bottom. The canine had been let off its leash and attacked the juvenile for almost 30 seconds till Nelson caught up with it and known as it off, in keeping with Pugel’s report. The suspect was handled at a hospital for bites and lacerations.
Pugel known as the occasion an “outrageous use of drive.” In line with his report, Koen, the police canine, was used to assault a number of suspects already in custody or who weren’t actively resisting, and in a single case was used to maul a jaywalker.
In one other episode, Nelson — whereas working off-duty in uniform as safety at an Auburn on line casino — used an LVNR to choke a person into unconsciousness after the person “shoulder bumped” Nelson after having been expelled from the venue. Pugel famous that Nelson used probably deadly drive whereas implementing on line casino coverage — no legislation had been damaged.
The protection argues that prosecutors’ efforts to shoehorn Pugel’s conclusions about Nelson’s makes use of of drive into this case are an try and sidestep guidelines of proof that prohibit proof of somebody’s “propensity” to commit an act by renaming it a “frequent scheme,” which is admissible.
“Washington legislation unequivocally prohibits this tactic,” Nelson’s lawyer, Emma Scanlan, wrote in courtroom pleadings, “And the state’s movement must be denied in its entirety.”
The prosecution’s motions, which await a ruling from the decide, additionally present new particulars of Nelson’s tattoos the state hopes to point out a jury as “extra proof of his adoption of a … plan to make use of violence in his policing,” together with images of tattoos Decide Phelps has beforehand ordered redacted for being probably “inflammatory” and probably impinging on Nelson’s proper to a good trial.
They embrace tattoos round his decrease legs, one studying “Shield the Harmless” and the opposite “Punish the Deserving.” One other photograph exhibits a big tattoo on Nelson’s thigh, depicting a set of fanged jaws with the Latin phrase “Fortis Fortuna Adiuvat” arching over it. The interpretation: “Fortune Favors the Courageous [or Bold].”
Vertical script between the 2 jaws spells “Koen,” the title of Nelson’s police canine, which Pugel concluded was launched to chew individuals a number of instances unnecessarily, sending a number of individuals to the hospital for therapy of bites and lacerations, together with a 15-year-old automotive theft suspect.
Nelson’s protection attorneys argue Pugel’s opinions are irrelevant to Nelson’s actions the day he shot Sarey, and say prosecutors are studying “nefarious” which means into tattoos which are generally seen on troopers and cops. Nelson was each, having served two fight excursions in Iraq.
The King County Prosecuting Lawyer’s Workplace declined to remark.
“Officer Nelson has nothing to cover,” Scanlan stated Friday in an announcement to The Seattle Instances. “We requested the Courtroom to go forward and have an open courtroom listening to in regards to the tattoos and to launch the tattoo photographs to the general public.”
She stated the 2 tattoos on his legs — “Punish the Deserving, Shield the Harmless” is the motto of the Tomahawks, twenty third Infantry Regiment, through which Nelson served.
“It’s a private memorial to mates and fellow troopers who didn’t make it again house,” Scanlan stated.
She stated the choice to make use of Pugel as a use-of-force professional is “perplexing.” Pugel was a member of the command employees on the Seattle Police Division when the Division of Justice sued the SPD in 2012 over the routine use of unconstitutional and extreme drive, leading to a federal consent decree that is still in place at this time.
“The King County Prosecuting Lawyer’s Workplace appears to need to make this trial about the whole lot however what occurred on Could 31, 2019,” Scanlan stated.
Nelson was charged by King County prosecutors after a assessment of surveillance video from a close-by enterprise and statements from witnesses, together with Steven Woodard, a bystander who in keeping with courtroom paperwork and the charging paperwork noticed Nelson slug Sarey a number of instances, then pin him towards an ice freezer, draw his pistol and shoot him within the stomach.
Initially, Woodard had jumped out of his automotive to assist Nelson. He stated he noticed the knife fly out of Nelson’s vest. It landed at Woodard’s ft.
Woodard stated that after the preliminary gunshot, Sarey slumped down the ice freezer and collapsed in a sitting place.
With Sarey apparently incapacitated and on the bottom, the video exhibits and Woodard stated he noticed Nelson clearing a jammed spherical from his .45-caliber pistol and, in keeping with courtroom paperwork, “glanced round and appeared to look immediately at Woodard. Then, 3.44 seconds after the primary shot, Nelson prolonged his weapon, took purpose at Sarey and fired a bullet into his brow. “Woodard instructed arriving officers what he noticed, describing the second shot as “bull[expletive].”
“He shot him within the abdomen or wherever he shot him,” Woodard is quoted in prosecution paperwork. “After which he checked out me after which he checked out him and he shot him within the head.”
“So that you’re saying that the second shot was pointless?” he was requested.
“Sure, I’m saying,” Woodard responded.
Nelson has been concerned in two different deadly shootings: the Could 7, 2011, dying of Brian Scaman and the June 10, 2017, dying of Isaiah Obet.
Auburn paid $1.25 million to settle a lawsuit filed by Obet’s brother in 2020, simply after Nelson was charged. Final yr, the city paid $4 million to Sarey’s family to settle their wrongful death claim.