Former Seattle police chief to testify in trial of officer charged with murder

Jul 11, 2022, 1:50 PM | Updated: Jul 18, 2022, 8:17 am

Photo from KIRO 7...

Photo from KIRO 7

Former interim Seattle Police Chief Jim Pugel will be a key witness for the prosecution in the murder trial of Auburn Police Officer Jeff Nelson.

King County Prosecutors will bring Pugel to the stand to examine more than 70 use-of-force incidents involving Nelson, a former K-9 officer in Auburn and an Iraq War veteran.

Pugel detailed 17 of the incidents in a report citing concerns about Nelson’s application of force.

“At best unnecessary and often excessive or unconstitutional,” the report read.

Most of the incidents involved either deploying a K-9, a dog specifically trained to assist members of law enforcement, unnecessarily, or using a Lateral Vascular Neck Restraint, a type of chokehold which is considered deadly force by most departments.

According to Pugel, the conditions for such extreme force were often not met.

Nelson is charged with murder for the 2020 shooting of Jesse Sarey, a homeless man known to police who was the subject of a disorderly conduct call.

Auburn police officer pleads not guilty to murder charges, placed on house arrest

Nelson fatally shot Sarey, once in the abdomen and once in the head.

According to a review of the surveillance footage during the confrontation, Nelson pinned Sarey to an ice freezer and shot him in the abdomen. While Sarey was slumped over against the ice machine, after the initial shot Nelson cleared a jammed round out of his gun, extended his weapon and shot him in the head.

Nelson is the first officer to be charged with murder under I-940, the state’s new police deadly force law. Among other things, the law removes the requirement to prove an officer acted with malice to prove murder.

Prosecutors highlight several examples in court filings in the hopes of convincing the court to allow evidence via Pugel they say shows a pattern of escalating minor incidents into significant force situations.

Nelson has been involved in two other fatal shootings: the May 7, 2011, death of Brian Scaman and the June 10, 2017, death of Isaiah Obet.

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Former Seattle police chief to testify in trial of officer charged with murder