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Jury reaches verdict in Auburn Officer Jeffrey Nelson’s trial in 2019 killing; City releases statement

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On Thursday, June 27, 2024, a six-man, six-woman jury at the Maleng Regional Justice Center convicted Auburn Police Officer Jeffrey Nelson of murder for on-duty actions, marking the first such conviction in Washington state history.

Nelson was convicted  for the 2019 killing of 26-year-old Jesse Sarey, and the City released a statement.

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This is the first case where a police officer in Washington State has been convicted of murder for on-duty actions and also the second test of a state law designed to remove legal barriers to prosecuting police officers.

Nelson was on trial for one count of second-degree murder and one count of first-degree assault in Sarey’s death.

The jury was hung on Tuesday, and Judge Nicole Gaines Phelps sent jurors back to deliberations. They returned with a verdict on Thursday.

As we previously reported, Nelson was charged with second-degree murder and first-degree assault. After speaking with Sarey near Walgreens, Nelson re-contacted him outside of Sunshine Grocery on Auburn Way N. According to Nelson (click to read), he had probable cause to arrest Sarey for Disorderly Conduct. A physical altercation ensued when Sarey allegedly resisted Nelson’s attempt to arrest him. Sarey was shot twice during the altercation, and later died at Harborview Medical Center.

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Also on Thursday, the City of Auburn released a statement following the verdict.

“Now that the criminal trial has concluded, the City’s internal administrative investigation will proceed in accordance with the City’s employment policies and collective bargaining agreement,” the City of Auburn said in a statement. “A state certification hearing by the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission has been scheduled, during which the commission will decide whether Officer Nelson’s certification should be denied, suspended, or revoked.”

“The City of Auburn and the City of Auburn Police Department have worked tirelessly over the years to earn and maintain the trust of our community. We work diligently to maintain professional standards for our residents and engage in ethical and equitable community policing.

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“For those who choose to express their reactions at this trial’s conclusion, we ask that you do so peacefully and within the law.”

Here’s text of the city’s full statement:

“The City of Auburn respects the verdict reached by the jury in this tragic situation.

“Now that the criminal trial has concluded, the City’s internal administrative investigation will proceed in accordance with the City’s employment policies and collective bargaining agreement. A state certification hearing by the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission has been scheduled, during which the commission will decide whether Officer Nelson’s certification should be denied, suspended, or revoked.

“The City of Auburn and the City of Auburn Police Department have worked tirelessly over the years to earn and maintain the trust of our community. We work diligently to maintain professional standards for our residents and engage in ethical and equitable community policing.

“For those who choose to express their reactions at this trial’s conclusion, we ask that you do so peacefully and within the law.

“Nancy Backus, Mayor of the City of Auburn and

“Mark Caillier, Auburn Police Department Chief of Police”

The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office also released the following statement:

“We want to thank the jury for their time and careful consideration of this case.  We appreciate the hard work of all parties to get to these important verdicts.  All along we felt this was a case that needed to be tried before a jury.  Our thoughts continue to be with Mr. Sarey’s loved ones.”

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