The trial of Auburn Police Officer Jeffrey Nelson is expected to be scheduled soon with the case setting hearing set for June 3 (at press time) at Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent.
Nelson has been charged with two felonies — murder in the second degree and assault in the first degree — for the May 31, 2020, death of 26-year-old Jesse Saray.
Nelson is one of the first police officers to be charged under new legal standards implemented by the voter-adopted Initiative 940.
For cases that happened before 2019, state law required prosecutors to show that an officer acted with “malice” and a lack of good faith. It was a standard that King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg called “essentially impossible” to meet.
Satturberg’s statement said the approved I-940 makes it clear “that there should be an increased role for juries to decide whether a particular application of deadly force by law enforcement constitutes a crime.”
The deadly incident occurred at Sunshine Grocery after Nelson attempted to initiate a disorderly conduct arrest on Sarey. After Nelson attempted to subdue Sarey, the two struggled in the parking lot.
Satturberg said “it should be noted” that Nelson was 7 inches taller and about 75 pounds heavier than Sarey.
According to a statement from Satterberg, Nelson reportedly punched Sarey as they wrestled before he pushed the man against a freezer box and shot him once in his torso.
As Sarey fell backward from the force of the bullet, Nelson unjammed his weapon and shot Sarey in the forehead 3 seconds later as he lay on the ground.
“We assert that Officer Nelson’s actions with respect to both shots were unreasonable. However, we recognize that the jury will have to decide each application of deadly force independently,” said Satterberg in his statement.
Independent investigators that examined this use of force incident concluded that “Officer Nelson created the very situation that brought about his use of deadly force,” according to Satterberg’s office.
According to a report from KUOW.org, five people have been killed by police officers in Auburn during the last decade. They found that Nelson had been responsible for three of those deaths.