That's what the officer said Monday shortly after he was acquitted of all criminal charges in the June 10 shooting of Niles Meservey.
A Snohomish County jury deliberated for about five hours before they found that Meade committed no crime when he fired eight shots into the back of Meservey's car outside the Chuckwagon Inn. The 51-year-old was struck seven times and died at the scene.
Jurors apparently weren't able to decide Monday if Meade shot Meservey in self-defense. They are expected to resume deliberations on that issue today. If jurors find that the shooting was self-defense, the officer's legal expenses must be borne by the state.
Meade let out a large sigh after Superior Court Judge Gerald Knight read the verdict. Charged with second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter, Meade could have been sent to prison for as many as 18 years if jurors had decided differently.
The officer looked back at his wife, who was seated behind him. She was in tears. The couple held each other in a long embrace once the jury was out of the room.
The verdict brought brief applause from courtroom spectators, which included more than a dozen off-duty Everett police officers.
Meade, 41, told reporters that his heart goes out to Meservey's family. He never wanted to have to shoot the Stanwood man.
The 11-year veteran also said he was grateful the jury listened to him.
“I was hoping once the truth came out that the jury would find me not guilty,” Meade said.
He said he didn't bear any ill will toward the investigators or prosecutors. They were given bad information, he said, and hadn't heard Meade's side of the story until he testified last week. Meade later shook hands with Snohomish County deputy prosecutors and the lead detectives.
“I didn't think I was going to jail, because I had done the right thing,” he said.
The officer thanked his family and friends for supporting him. He also said that he was grateful to the Everett Police Officers Association and the union representing Monroe police officers. Both labor groups donated money to help Meade pay for his defense.
Everett officers voted to donate $50,000 to help pay for Meade's legal costs.
The officer's wife Cindy Meade said she was relieved by the jury's decision.
“June 10, 2009 was a tragedy. A life was lost and neither my husband Troy nor I take that lightly,” she said after the verdict. “But I believe police officers have to be able to defend themselves and protect the public as is their job in our society.”
Her husband has been calm and professional through all of this, she said.
“I never had a doubt that he had to do what he did that night so he could come home to me,” Cindy Meade said.
Civil suit lies ahead
Meade's legal troubles are not over. His future with the Everett Police Department also was not clear after Monday's verdict.
Meservey's family has filed a $15 million civil lawsuit against the officer 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 declined to comment. 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.”
Meade remains on paid administrative leave, Reardon said. She said she couldn't comment on what will happen now that he has been acquitted.
The police department has yet to conduct an internal investigation of the shooting to determine if Meade followed department policies.
Meade said he wants to return to work. First, though, he and his wife hope to take a vacation, the officer said.
The shooting was investigated by the Snohomish County Multi-Agency Response Team, a group of detectives assembled from departments around the county. Each detective was hand-picked because of their experience in homicide and major-crime cases. Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Matthew Baldock said the case showed him that the SMART model is working. The detectives provided a thorough and professional investigation. A deliberate charging decision was made, both sides presented their cases and based on the evidence, jurors made the final call, he said.
“What was notable to me was that the defense never once attacked the integrity of the investigation. I think that speaks volumes to how professionally it was conducted,” Baldock said.
Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Roe in October decided Meade should face charges after reviewing the results of the SMART investigation.
Meade became the first local police officer to face criminal charges for a line-of-duty killing. The decision was so rare that national statistics aren't kept on similar cases.
The trial began April 14 in a courtroom that often was packed with off-duty Everett officers and others.
Meade on Thursday took the stand and told jurors he was protecting himself and others when he opened fire. He insisted that if he hadn't shot, he would have been run down by Meservey's Corvette and injured or killed.
Everett police officer Steve Klocker was an eyewitness to the shooting and a key prosecution witness. At times blinking back tears, Klocker, a 30-year law enforcement veteran, told jurors he saw no reason for the gunfire.
Klocker testified Meade said something like “enough is enough, time to end this,” before pulling the trigger. On the witness stand, Meade insisted that it wasn't true, and called into question Klocker's police skills.
Everett police officer Richard Somerville was among the officers present when Monday's 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.
After the verdict was announced, Meade's attorney, David Allen of Seattle, told jurors that his client had suffered months of humiliation and anguish over being charged with Meservey's death.
Meade was grateful, Allen said, and “wanted to thank them for giving him back his life.”
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; email@example.com.
2009June 10: Everett police officer Troy Meade fatally shoots Niles Meservey outside the Chuckwagon Inn in south Everett.
Oct. 26: Meade is charged with first-degree manslaughter based on a investigation by a special team of police detectives drawn from throughout the Snohomish County.
2010March 25: Prosecutors charge Meade with second-degree murder.
April 14: Meade's trial begins.
April 15: Officer Steven Klocker, an eyewitness to the shooting, testifies that he saw no reason for Meade to fire.
Thursday: Meade takes stand in his own defense and challenges Klocker's recollection of the shooting.
Friday: Lawyers make closing arguments. Jurors deliberate about an hour before going home for the weekend.
Monday: Meade is acquitted on all counts.
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