By Diana Hefley and Scott North Herald Writers
Troy Meade on Thursday received a hand-delivered letter informing him that his 13-year career with the police department is over.
An internal investigation determined that Meade vi olated department policies when he fatally shot Niles Meservey on June 10, 2009, outside the Chuckwagon Inn. Outgoing Police Chief Jim Scharf has deemed Meade unfit to continue as an Everett officer.
“In my opinion, it is inexplicable that you failed to utilize different force options or to simply move further out of the way of Mr. Meservey’s vehicle and reassess the situation; instead, you precipitately used deadly force,” Scharf wrote. “Your actions were incompatible with the Department’s priority of protecting and preserving human life.”
Meade, 42, received a similar letter last week, notifying him that the city intended to terminate his employment. He met with Scharf earlier this week as part of a standard opportunity officers are given to try to convince the chief to change his mind.
Scharf was not persuaded. The chief said he was troubled by the decisions Meade made that night. Investigators found just 21 seconds elapsed from the time Meade alerted dispatchers that the situation was becoming risky to when he finished shooting. During more than half that time, Meade was shocking Meservey with a Taser electronic stun gun.
“In the circumstances, escalation from the Taser to a deadly weapon in 21 seconds is unfathomable,” Scharf wrote.
Scharf concluded that Meade admittedly failed to consider other options besides lethal force. He also determined that there was no imminent threat to Meade or anyone else.
Those are the same conclusions reached by homicide detectives, Snohomish County prosecutors and another Everett police officer who witnessed the incident.
Nothing in the department policy “or within the standards of responsible policing, can justify your fatal shooting of Mr. Meservey,” Scharf wrote. “… I so state based on undisputed facts and despite your efforts to rationalize your actions that night.”
Meade had worked for the city since 1998. The termination is effective today.
City spokeswoman Kate Reardon on Thursday said city officials would not be commenting about the decision to fire Meade.
Meade still has an opportunity to fight for his job.
He could ask the Everett Police Officers Association, the union that represents rank-and-file officers, to file a grievance challenging his termination. If that happens, the city would face more costs as it prepares to defend Scharf’s decision before a state arbitrator.
Union leaders have publicly remained silent on the shooting. However, as early as November 2009 they were talking about building a defense fund of up to $50,000 to help Meade. The purpose of the fund was not only to help with Meade’s criminal defense — which wound up being covered by Everett taxpayers — but also to prepare for filing a grievance on Meade’s behalf or participating in arbitration.
Officers in 2009 reported they were rebuffed when they approached a local bank about establishing an account where money in support of Meade could be collected. The bank said it would be too controversial, according to records reviewed by The Herald.
Meade was the first officer in county history to be charged with murder for a line-of-duty shooting.
Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Roe reviewed the criminal investigation and concluded that Meade wasn’t legally justified in killing Meservey. Meade was charged with second-degree murder.
Another officer, an eyewitness to the shooting, told investigators that before Meade opened fire he turned to him and said something like, “Enough is enough. Time to end this.”
Meservey was drunk and belligerent and refused to obey Meade’s orders to get out of his car. Meade twice used a stun gun to try to subdue him. Meservey, of Stanwood, drove forward a short distance into a metal fence. Gunfire erupted. Meade shot Meservey seven times from behind.
Meade declined to speak with investigators. He later testified that he shot because he was afraid of being run down.
There was disputed testimony during the trial about whether or not the Corvette’s back-up lights came on before Meade opened fire.
Prosecutors argued that Meade had other options besides lethal force, including taking cover behind a nearby vehicle. Roe said Thursday that nobody from the city sought his counsel about what to do with Meade. That wouldn’t have been appropriate, he said.
The prosecutor also offered no comment on Scharf’s decision to fire Meade. Roe said his involvement in the case ended with Meade’s trial on criminal charges.
“I had a tough and important decision to make after the incident where Mr. Meservey was killed. I made that decision and followed through,” Roe said.
Meade was acquitted of all criminal charges in April 2010. The same jurors, in a separate civil decision and under different court rules, also determined that the shooting was not self-defense. That meant that Meade was responsible for his own attorney bills, not county prosecutors.
Everett taxpayers ended up picking up the $240,000 that Meade’s lawyers charged to defend him in the criminal case. City officials said they were responsible to pay for Meade’s defense because he was acting within his capacity as a city employee at the time of the shooting.
That expense was added to a growing stack of legal bills connected to the killing. Attorneys billed the city of Everett more than half of a million dollars to prepare for civil litigation and offer legal advice on labor matters.
Meade was on administrative leave for two years. He’s been paid $183,984.87 since he was forced to turn in his badge and gun. That includes pay for vacation and holidays.
People in the community, including some Everett officers, questioned why the police department failed to initiate an internal investigation until some 17 months after the incident.
Scharf, who has declined to speak publicly about the shooting, told a Seattle attorney earlier this year that he decided to delay the internal investigation until after the civil lawsuit was resolved. He said he made the decision out of fairness to Meade.
Meservey’s daughter had filed a $15 million claim with the city. She later filed a lawsuit, alleging that the city failed to properly train and supervise Meade. City officials in February agreed to pay $500,000 to settle the lawsuit.
Paul Luvera, the attorney who represented Meservey’s family, again on Thursday questioned the delay.
“We are perplexed why this took so long; his termination should have happened months ago. It makes one wonder what was going on behind closed doors that allowed Meade to keep his position for as long as he did. This case has cost Everett taxpayers millions of dollars, and what’s more, the trust of residents who look for transparency from their city, something some think is in grave question,” Luvera said in a written statement.
Presumably Scharf now will fully retire. He announced in March that he would be delaying his retirement until after the internal investigation was finished. The police department has been run for weeks by Kathy Atwood, the new police chief.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.