AUBURN, Wash. - An Auburn Police officer is charged with murder and assault in a 2019 shooting in what is the first case to be prosecuted under the standards of I-940.
New video released by the King County Prosecutor’s Office on Thursday is graphic, but important because it shows what happened to 26-year-old Jesse Sarey.
Officer Jeffrey Nelson shot Sarey twice outside of a local grocery store in May of 2019.
The confrontation between Nelson and Sarey started after a couple of Auburn businesses made several 911 calls reporting that a man was throwing objects at cars and store windows.
During the initial interaction, prosecutors say Nelson told Sarey to leave the area.
“Officer Nelson had a brief conversation with Mr. Sarey who was visibly under the influence of drugs,” King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said.
Officer Jeff Nelson (Image courtesy: AuburnExaminer.com)
Prosecutors say after Officer Nelson told him to leave the area - Sarey did.
Then they say the young man jaywalked through traffic and ended up in front of the grocery store. Minutes later, the video shows Nelson approaching Sarey again saying he was being arrested for disorderly conduct.
In the video, you hear Officer Nelson saying, “I told you to stop kicking stuff, stop throwing stuff, right?”
Nelson told Sarey to put his hands behind his back a couple of times. Sarey is heard saying he wasn’t kicking anything.
Court documents state that Sarey did not comply instead he turned to a box of trash finding a can to drink. That’s when things escalate and you see Nelson forcing Sarey to his feet. You hear Sarey telling Nelson to stop pushing him and you also see Nelson punch Sarey around 7 times.
An eyewitness who is directly in front of the incident jumps out of his car. Court documents say the witness later stated that he jumped out of the car after seeing Sarey ‘reach behind’ officer Nelson and touch his holstered gun. The witness told detectives he was afraid of what would happen next.
You hear the witness telling Sarey to stop resisting to go down and the 26-year-old replying that he wasn’t doing anything.
Then seconds later, Nelson fires two shots.
“The murder charge reflects the first shot that ultimately brought about Mr. Sarey’s death, the assault charge relates to the second shot to the head 3.4 seconds later which remarkably was determined not to be the fatal shot,” King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said.
Satterberg says Nelson acted unreasonably, which is what they now only have to prove to prosecute Officer Nelson.
The voter-approved I-940 significantly changed the standards of criminal liability for police officers.
Satterberg says before I-940, prosecutors had to prove the officer acted with malice, which he says, made it impossible to prosecute an officer.
“This is the first time we have charged a police officer for the use of deadly force since the passage of Initiative 940,” Satterberg said.
The video will play a crucial role in the trial.
Satterberg said law enforcement experts analyzed the video and submitted their findings, which lead to the decision to charge Nelson with murder and assault.
Port of Seattle Police were the lead investigators in the case.
Prosecutors will argue that Nelson did not act reasonably under the circumstances because he did not try to deescalate the situation including using a taser or K9 before firing his weapon.
The city of Auburn released a statement, which reads in part:
“The loss of life is tragic, and we extend our sympathy to the Sarey family and the community. We, the City of Auburn, acknowledge that this is an important time to do internal work and reflection coupled with community engagement.”