Snohomish County police officer charged in killing
Courtesy of the Luvera Law Firm
Seven bullet holes mark the back of Niles Meservey's driver's seat. The holes have been circled to make them more visible.
Elizabeth Armstrong / The Herald
Standing beside the victim’s car, members of the Snohomish County Multi-Agency Response Team investigate the shooting of Niles Meservey.
“Time to end this; enough is enough,” Everett police officer Troy Meade allegedly said before firing eight shots through the car's rear window.
Meade, 41, was charged Monday in Snohomish County Superior Court with first-degree manslaughter in the death of Niles L. Meservey.
It marks the first time that a Snohomish County police officer has faced criminal prosecution in connection with a shooting in the line of duty.
Snohomish County prosecutors allege that Meade acted recklessly when he fired his weapon at Meservey, 51, of Stanwood.
Another officer, who was an eyewitness to the encounter, told investigators he never would have shot.
Meade first used an electric stun gun to try to stop Meservey from driving away from a police stop, the officer said. When the Taser didn't convince Meservey to cooperate, Meade allegedly drew a handgun and shot Meservey repeatedly.
Investigators believe that Meade was not directly in danger of being run down by Meservey's vehicle. They determined he was standing about a car-length behind and to the left of the Corvette when he fired, according to court papers.
The officer who witnessed the events told investigators that he didn't believe that there was any “immediate or imminent threat” to Meade, himself or any civilians, prosecutors wrote.
After the shooting, Meade said he believed officers' lives were threatened, according to a 900-page investigative report, which also was released Monday.
Detectives tried repeatedly to interview Meade, an 11-year veteran. Despite negotiations, he provided no statement to investigators.
Meade is represented by a seasoned defense attorney, David Allen of Seattle. Allen said he expects Meade will contest the manslaughter allegations and win acquittal at trial.
“Officer Meade is a dedicated professional and we believe the facts as presented in court will be much different than alleged,” Allen said.
Prosecutors said in court papers they have no objection to Meade remaining free on his personal recognizance. They don't consider him a flight risk. Meade does not have access to firearms and is on administrative leave from his police job.
After reviewing an investigation by a special task force, Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Mark Roe found that the officer's use of deadly force was not permitted under the law. Roe described his findings in a letter sent Monday to the lead detectives in the case. The investigation was handled by Washington State Patrol detective Jeff Rhue and Snohomish County sheriff's detective Scott Wells.
“I have visited the scene with Detective Rhue, spoken with witnesses, and discussed the case with each of you, as well as with experienced prosecutors, and with other members of the SMART team. The conclusion reached by each of us, individually and collectively, is that the fatal shooting of Mr. Meservey on June 10, 2009 does not appear to have been justified under the law,” Roe wrote.
Detectives interviewed patrons at the restaurant as well as the other officer who witnessed the shooting.
Witness accounts of the events vary.
Meservey reportedly was drunk that night. An autopsy would later reveal that he had a blood-alcohol level of .26, or more than three times the legal limit to drive.
Someone at the restaurant first called police about 10:45 p.m. to report that another patron was intoxicated and was about ready to drive away. Everett officers arrived at the restaurant and found Meservey's Corvette but couldn't find him. The officers left about 15 minutes later.
Police were called again, just after 11:30 p.m. The man had returned to the restaurant and was about to leave. Meade arrived at the restaurant about 11:39 p.m. and found Meservey sitting in his car, in the driver's seat, according to charging papers.
The Corvette was parked between two other vehicles behind the restaurant. Meade blocked Meservey in, parking his patrol car perpendicular to the Corvette about 15 feet away, prosecutors wrote.
Another officer arrived about four minutes later. He saw Meade standing next to the driver's door of the Corvette, talking with Meservey. Meade signaled to the officer that everything was OK, and the other officer began to drive away. Meade then radioed for the officer to return to help.
The officer parked his patrol car and walked back. He saw Meade standing next to the driver's door and talking to Meservey through an open window. The car's engine was not running, the officer reported. He heard Meade attempting to convince Meservey not to drive away. Meade then ordered the driver to get out of the car, prosecutors wrote. The officer told investigators he couldn't hear what Meservey was saying but it sounded like Meservey was speaking in a belligerent tone and refusing to comply with Meade's commands.
The officer sensed the situation was escalating. The officer drew his electric stun gun and baton. He noticed that Meade had drawn his stun gun, too.
Witnesses said Meade fired his Taser through the open driver's window. The probes struck Meservey in the left shoulder, court documents said. The other officer could see Meservey stiffen from the shock. Investigators later determined that Meade's Taser had been used for six seconds, followed almost immediately by a five-second application.
Meservey appeared to quickly recover and asked Meade why he had given him an electric shock. Meservey then started the Corvette's engine, according to prosecutors. The officer yelled to Meade that he was going to move Meade's patrol car to better block in the Corvette. He told investigators he planned to park the patrol car bumper-to-bumper with the Corvette to minimize collision damage.
The officer said as he ran around the front of Meade's patrol car he saw the Corvette lurch forward over a concrete curb. It struck a low chain-link fence. After it hit the fence, the car appeared to be slightly moving, as if Meservey was trying to continue to drive or was revving the engine.
A woman told investigators she had been knocked to the ground by the fence but she was not injured, according to the police reports.
The officer said he saw Meade draw his pistol and fire several shots through the Corvette's rear window, advancing one or two steps as he did, prosecutors wrote.
The officer said he heard Meade say, “Time to end this,” before he began shooting.
Meade broadcast over the police radio that shots had been fired and the suspect was down and called for aid.
The first police sergeant to arrive told investigators Meade was standing in the parking lot, his hands behind his head. He reportedly said, “I'm out of it. I want my Garrity.” That is an apparent reference to the right of law enforcement officers to cooperate with a police investigation under orders while still protecting their Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination.
Meservey was still in the car, slumped over toward the passenger seat.
The other officer and the police sergeant removed Meservey from the car and attempted to revive him, assisted by the woman who said she'd been knocked over by the fence. She told detectives she is a registered nurse.
The Taser probes still were embedded in Meservey's shoulder, according to court papers.
Paramedics determined that Meservey was dead.
Detectives found eight spent bullet casings on the ground near the Corvette. The rear window of the Corvette was shattered. The front tires were just over the curb at the head of the parking stall, and the front bumper was up against a chain-link fence.
The car wasn't in gear, but the engine was still running.
Meservey died of gunshot wounds to his torso. He'd been struck by seven rounds — four to the upper back, one to his right shoulder, one to his mid-back and one to his right wrist.
Seattle-based trial attorney Paul Luvera in September filed a $15 million claim against the city of Everett on behalf of Meservey's family. He alleges the killing was reckless and unjustified and that police were grossly negligent.
“We are pleased the prosecuting attorney reached a conclusion that we believed was abundantly obvious: that it is excessive use of force to shoot a man seven times in the back when he's sitting in an idling car,” Luvera said.
Luvera also said the decision was too long in coming, and that too little information was released in the intervening months.
A special task force of homicide detectives, the Snohomish Multi-Agency Response Team, or SMART, led the investigation into the shooting. It sent the results to Roe on Aug. 31.
This is the second time SMART detectives have examined gunfire involving Meade.
In August 2006, Meade opened fire after watching another officer get knocked through the air by a suspect who was trying to drive away from a police stop.
Meade and another officer approached the suspect as he sat in his car outside apartments in north Everett. They repeatedly asked him to turn off his engine. Instead, he hit the gas, striking the officer who was with Meade.
Another officer arrived just then, and the suspect appeared readying to ram her patrol car.
She and Meade shot at the suspect, who was later arrested for first-degree assault.
Roe found the 2006 gunfire justified.
Meade has no history of disciplinary actions, Everett city spokeswoman Kate Reardon said.
Meservey's daughter, Tanda Louden, welcomed word of the manslaughter charge.
“While my family takes some measure of comfort in knowing this man will be held accountable for his actions, nothing the city can do will bring my father back to me and my family,” she said Monday.
Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437, firstname.lastname@example.org.