There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.
My foster son, Jesse Sarey, was killed by Officer Jeff Nelson of the Auburn Police Department on May 31, 2019. Jesse was 26 years old. He was the 19th person in 2019 killed by police use of deadly force in the state of Washington since implementation of Initiative 940 (I-940), which requires de-escalation and mental health training for police and changed the law to remove a legal barrier that prevented prosecutors, as a practical matter, from charging officers who killed someone. Washington’s previous statute required prosecutors to prove “actual malice” — the most restrictive standard in the country. With Jesse’s biological family and supporters by our side, Officer Nelson was charged with second-degree murder and first-degree assault in August 2020. Officer Nelson is only the third officer to be indicted for taking the life of a civilian in Washington State history and the first under I-940. Nelson is the first officer in the state of Washington to be prosecuted for taking the life of a civilian in 30 years. Less than 2% of police officers nationally are held criminally accountable when they kill someone. This is why State v. Nelson needs your attention, and the nation’s. Officer Nelson’s trial begins in June 2022.
Content Warning: This article contains brief mention of suicide.
On July 25, a series of laws banning police departments from using chokeholds, neck restraints, and no-knock warrants, and restricting the use of tear gas and military equipment went into effect in Washington State.
The laws were part of a wave of legislation reacting to the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin and the months of subsequent nationwide protest that followed.
Locally, Seattle City Council talked about, but ultimately did not follow through on, significant monetary cuts to the police budget.
Over 30 photographs of those killed by police sat on steps in the foreground of a press conference organized by the family of Jesse Sarey, a Khmer American man shot and killed by Auburn police officer Jeff Nelson in 2019. The press conference took place on the front steps of the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent, Washington.
“Since 2018, there’s been 107 names added to the list that police have killed; Jeff Nelson added Jesse to that list so he needs to be held accountable,” said Kelli Saeteurn, a family member of Sarey.
For the third time in as many months, the case involving the police officer who shot and killed Jesse Sarey was delayed.
On Nov. 13, the third Order for Continuance in The State of Washington vs Jeffrey Nelson case was filed from the defense, pushing back the next hearing until Jan. 20, 2021.
After the case’s arraignment on Aug. 24 — in which Nelson was charged with second-degree murder and first-degree assault — Nelson made bail the same day and has been on electronic home monitoring since. In September, Nelson’s defense filed a motion to change judges from one other than King County Superior Court Judge Veronica Galván. That motion was tabled and Galván will remain the judge on the case until the case moves to trial.
Last Friday would have been Manuel Ellis’ 34th birthday.
“I was there when he was born,” Regina Ellis Burnett said of her nephew. “Unfortunately, I was not there when his life was taken. We’re here to celebrate.”
It’s been nearly six months since Ellis was killed by Tacoma police. A state investigation is underway, but the family says it’s not moving fast enough. They held a press conference Friday announcing their intent to sue the City of Tacoma for $30 million in damages. Attorney James Bible has filed a precursor to the lawsuit, known as a tort claim.
Nationally, Tuesday’s election pretty much went as polls suggested they would. With Democrats and Republicans highly motivated to vote this year, 2018’s midterms have shattered all kinds of national election turnout records for a non-presidential year. In Washington State, however, the 1970 record, which topped a whopping 70 percent, remains unchallenged. But with that enthusiasm, far more people than usual voted early: Almost half of the state’s 4.3 million registered voters had their ballots counted with the state’s first release of election totals on Tuesday night. That will likely be at least two-thirds of the final total of voters. That means that candidates with a significant first-night lead in key races will be difficult to overcome as more ballots are counted.
“There is a difference between a moment and a movement,” said Gabriel Prawl, the President of the Seattle branch of the A. Philip Randolph Association. “The meaning of a movement is sacrifice, a moment is we are just here today, we go home and it’s over, a movement is when we leave here today we continue to do something that makes change, we continue to organize, to bring people together, we continue to face the issues and we are not afraid to speak to power.”