Auburn police officer on trial for murder, opening statements begin

May 16, 2024, 7:56 AM | Updated: 5:59 pm

auburn police officer jeffrey nelson...

Auburn Police Officer Jeff Nelson (Photo courtesy of Auburn Police Department via AP)

(Photo courtesy of Auburn Police Department via AP)

Five years later, and after several delays, the trial of Auburn Police Officer Jeff Nelson got underway at the Regional Justice Center in Kent.

Nelson is charged with second-degree murder and assault for the 2019 officer-involved shooting death of Jesse Sarey.

Past coverage: First-of-its-kind murder trial against Auburn police officer set for early 2022

Sarey was under arrest for disorderly conduct.

Before opening statements could begin, Judge Nicole Gaines Phelps had to rule on a complaint from the defense about a juror. It was revealed the juror had been communicating with a witness in the case … and not just any witness, but the foster mother of the person Nelson is accused of murdering.

KIRO 7 News reported the juror was dismissed before the trial got underway.

With that juror replaced with an alternate, the prosecution began opening statements. Prosecutor Angelo Calfo told the jury this is a case about an unnecessary death.

“It’s a case about a police officer who did not follow his training, who acted unreasonably. It’s about a police officer, Jeff Nelson, who unnecessarily shot and killed a homeless person named Jesse Sarey. A person who was unarmed,” Calfo said.

The prosecution said Nelson shot Sarey in the torso after a brief struggle. Then, cleared a jam in his firearm, then shot Sarey, again, in the head.

During her opening statement, Nelson’s attorney, Emma Scanlan, told an opposing version of what happened. She told the jury that Sarey had reached for Nelson’s gun during the struggle and grabbed a knife from his front pocket. She contended Nelson thought Sarey had the knife and Nelson feared for his life.

“This became a deadly force situation when Jesse Sarey grabbed Officer Nelson’s gun,” Scanlan said.

The fatal event happened May 31, 2019, in front of the Sunshine Grocery near the intersection of Auburn Way North and 15th Street Northeast. Several nearby businesses called 911 reporting Sarey was acting disorderly and was likely under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.

Other news: King County deputies intercept Burien drug ring tied to Sinaloa cartel

Nelson has been on administrative leave, awaiting trial since then.

Thursday’s proceedings concluded with the prosecution calling expert witness Grant Frederickson, a certified forensic video analyst. Frederickson began his testimony explaining digital video processes before the trial was adjourned for the day. Frederickson is expected to continue his testimony sometime next week.

The trial will resume Monday morning.

You can read more of James Lynch’s stories here. Follow James on X, formerly known as Twitter, or email him here.

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Auburn police officer on trial for murder, opening statements begin