Auburn Officer Jeff Nelson’s fate now in hands of jury

Jun 22, 2024, 1:00 PM

Photo: Auburn Police Officer Jeff Nelson....

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

(Photo courtesy of Auburn Police Department via AP)

It has been five years since Auburn Police Officer Jeff Nelson shot and killed 26-year-old Jesse Sarey.

Sarey was unarmed and reportedly going through some type of crisis. He was allegedly throwing garbage, banging on store windows and kicking cars in an Auburn shopping area.

Nelson reported he failed to comply with his arrest, leading to a physical altercation where the officer was seen on surveillance footage punching Sarey numerous times in the head and upper body.

Past coverage: Auburn police officer on trial for murder, opening statements begin

Nelson then drew his gun and shot Sarey in the torso. After Sarey fell onto the pavement, Nelson attempted to fire his gun again, before it jammed. Video then shows Nelson clearing the round, racking another bullet and firing a second shot into Sarey’s head.

Nelson was then put on trial for murder. Jurors listened to five weeks of testimony. They heard from a number of witnesses, including experts on everything from police training to video interpretation.

On Monday, Nelson and his attorney rested their case without calling Nelson to the stand to testify in his own defense.

Thursday morning closing arguments got underway. It was one last opportunity to convince jurors and to show or remove reasonable doubt.

“The issue here is whether Officer Nelson had the right to defend himself when Mr. Sarey grabbed for his firearm and ripped his knife off his uniform,” Nelson’s attorney Emma Scanlan told the jury.

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The prosecution claimed Sarey was not a threat, that he was unarmed, non-aggressive and never had control of the officer’s firearm or his knife. Prosecutor Angelo Calfo said Nelson made a choice.

“Time distance and cover. He could have kept distance. He could have created distance. He could have used his training. And that scene we saw where the defendant is sitting next to Mr. Sarey who is bleeding to death, would not have happened,” Calfo said.

Judge Nicole Gaines Phelps dismissed two jurors. Twelve were initially seated to hear the case, along with two alternates. The alternates were excused, but their service is not complete until a verdict is reached.

Jury deliberations begin first thing Friday morning.

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

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Auburn Officer Jeff Nelson’s fate now in hands of jury