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Murder trial begins for Auburn officer who killed man outside a convenience store in 2019

KENT, Wash. — Auburn police officer Jeff Nelson quietly looked on as his trial got underway in Kent Thursday.

Nelson’s facing a murder charge for shooting and killing 26-year-old Jesse Sarey during an attempted arrest outside a neighborhood market in 2019.

During opening statements, the jury was shown surveillance video of the deadly encounter, which the defense says came after multiple 911 calls for disorderly conduct.

The defense says Officer Nelson calmly approached Sarey outside the grocery store, after first encountering him outside a Walgreen’s minutes earlier.

The defense says Nelson tried to calm things down, but worried he would be stabbed when Sarey ripped his knife from his uniform.

They also referred to a witness who claimed Sarey went for the officer’s gun.

Prosecutors say the officer shot Sarey in the torso and again in the head.

“Never said, for example, that ‘he took the gun and tried to aim it at me,” said prosecutor Angelo Calfo.

“This is a tragedy all around it’s very sad there’s a difference between a tragedy and a crime,” said Emma Scanlan, defense attorney.

Before opening statements, the judge tossed out a juror for having continual interaction on social media with Sarey’s foster mom – a connection that was not disclosed during the selection process.

Previous coverage:

  • In January 2020, a video was released of a confrontation between Nelson and Sarey.
  • In August 2020, Nelson was charged with murder.
  • In May 2021, we broke down how Nelson made history by becoming the first-ever law enforcement officer charged with murder and assault under voter-approved Initiative 940.
  • In May 2023, we spoke to Sarey’s family as the trial was delayed again.