The verdict, announced at about 2:30 p.m., was greeted by brief applause and tears in a Snohomish County courtroom.
Meade, 41, later said his heart goes out to Meservey's family and he bears no ill will to anyone involved in the case.
"I want to put it behind me and go back to work," he said.
Meade's attorney, David Allen of Seattle, said he was pleased with the swift verdict, which he said was a vindication for his client.
"He acted lawfully," Allen said of Meade.
Meservey's family has filed a $15 million civil lawsuit against Meade and the city of Everett.
“I am sorry the jury was unable to convict Officer Meade of a crime, but I understand how difficult it is to obtain a conviction where there is a presumption of innocence and a burden of proving the case beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Tanda Louden, daughter of Niles Meservey. “Nevertheless, I am confident that a jury in a civil case will find Officer Meade responsible and hold him fully accountable in the damage case.”
Everett Police Chief Jim Scharf refused to answer questions after the verdict was announced. He referred all questions to city hall.
“The City of Everett respects our system of justice and the significant responsibility entrusted to the jury in this case,” city spokeswoman Kate Reardon said. “In light of other pending legal matters, it would not be appropriate for the City to offer any additional comments at this time.”
She said Meade remains on paid administrative leave and she could not comment on what will happen now that he has been acquitted.
After the verdict was announced, Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Gerald Knight sent the jury back behind closed doors to decide whether Meade acted in self defense. If so, the costs of his defense must be borne by the state.
The jury was sent home at about 5:25 p.m. without having announced a decision. Jurors were scheduled to return Tuesday morning.
Meade had little visible reaction when the verdict was read, but in the minutes prior, the strain was clear on the officer's face. He could have been headed to prison for up to 18 years.
Meade in October was charged with second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter. Jurors found him not guilty on both counts.
The 11-year Everett police veteran earlier testified that he was afraid for his life the night he fired eight shots into the back of Meservey's Chevrolet Corvette outside the Chuckwagon Inn.
Meservey, 51, was intoxicated and uncooperative when he drove into a chain link fence. Meade testified that he saw the car's back up lights flash on. He said the car was coming back toward him when he unholstered his gun and began firing.
Meservey was struck seven times from behind. He died in the parking lot.
Meade's testimony often contradicted that of Everett police officer Steven Klocker, an eyewitness to the shooting. Klocker told jurors he didn't believe that anyone was in danger that night. He testified that just before gunfire erupted Meade turned to him and said something like, “enough is enough; time to end this.”
Meade denied saying anything before he shot into the Corvette. He testified that he believed he was going to be crushed by the car and there was no time to get out of the way. Meade said he fired until he saw Meservey slump over. Meade told jurors he and other officers are trained to keep firing until there is no longer a threat.
“I didn't want to have to kill anybody,” Meade said Thursday during his testimony.
The verdict was read in a courtroom that many days during the trial had been packed with off-duty police officers.
Everett police officer Richard Somerville today was among those present when the verdict was announced.
Somerville said he was relieved for Meade. Police officers often face similar challenges.
"You have to make a split second decision. It's very tough," he said.
Somerville also said he was thinking of Klocker.
"I believe he was very honest and truthful of what he saw" from his vantage, Somerville said.
Herald Writers Jackson Holtz and Eric Stevick contributed to this report
What the jury had to decide
Here, in brief, are the questions jurors answered in the Troy Meade murder case. The actual jury instructions filled 27 pages and included two verdict forms.
Jurors were told to first consider Count 1 — second-degree murder. It was only after they decided the murder charge that they could consider Count 2 — first-degree manslaughter.
Second-degree murder: Meade was presumed innocent. To convict, the jury was required to find beyond a reasonable doubt that Meade acted with intent to kill, but without premeditation, and that his use of deadly force was not lawful or justifiable.
Prosecutors had to prove Meade ignored alternatives and the amount of force he used was not reasonable.
Jurors were told that actual danger was not necessary for a homicide to be justifiable.
First-degree manslaughter: Meade was presumed innocent. To convict, the jury had to find beyond a reasonable doubt that Meade killed Niles Meservey by engaging in a reckless act that he knew posed a substantial risk of death or injury.
The jury needed to find such disregard for another's safety was a “gross deviation from conduct that a reasonable person would exercise in the same situation.”
Jurors were told that police officers are not criminally liable for using deadly force if they do so without malice and believe it was legally justified.
They had to take into consideration how the circumstances appeared to the defendant. Because Meade claimed he acted in self-defense, prosecutors had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the killing was not justifiable.
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