By Diana Hefley and Jackson Holtz Herald Writers
EVERETT — An Everett police officer apparently broke the law when he shot and killed a man in June outside the Chuckwagon Inn, authorities announced today.
Officer Troy Meade, 41, was charged this morning with first-degree manslaughter in connection with the death of Niles Meservey, 51, of Stanwood.
Another police officer who was at the shooting scene told investigators that Meade first used an electric stun gun to try to stop Meservey from driving away from a police stop. When that didn’t work, Meade allegedly drew a handgun and shot Meservey repeatedly.
“Time to end this; enough is enough,” Meade allegedly said.
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.
Another officer who witnessed the events told investigators that he didn’t believe that there was any “immediate or imminent threat” to Meade, any civilians or the other officer when Meade opened fire, prosecutors wrote.
An investigation by a special task force found that the officer’s use of deadly force was not permitted under the law, Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Mark Roe wrote in a letter sent this morning 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.
After Roe’s ruling, the case was assigned to two other deputy prosecutors for a charging decision. They filed charges against Meade this morning in Snohomish County Superior Court. He is accused of recklessly causing Meservey’s death.
This is the first time in history that a Snohomish County police officer has faced criminal prosecution in connection with a shooting in the line of duty.
Meade is represented by a seasoned defense attorney, David Allen of the Seattle law firm Allen, Hansen and Maybrown PS. 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.
Deputy prosecutors Matthew Baldock and John Adcock wrote in court papers they have no objection to Meade remaining free on his personal recognizance because they do not consider him a flight risk. Meade does not have access to firearms and is on administrative leave from his police job, prosecutors wrote in court papers.
One reason the investigation took time was the detectives’ efforts to interview Meade, an 11-year veteran. Despite negotiations, there is no indication that he ever provided a statement.
Detectives interviewed patrons at the restaurant and another officer who witnessed the shooting.
Meservey reportedly was drunk that night. 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. They 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. The officer heard Meade attempting to convince Meservey not to drive away. Meade then ordered him 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 and anticipated that he and Meade were going to have to take additional steps to prevent Meservey from driving away. 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 and then followed almost immediately by another five-second application.
Meservey appeared to quickly recover and asked Meade why he given him an electric shock. Meservey then started the Corvette’s engine. 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 collison 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.
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 other officer found Meservey slumped over toward the passenger seat. He unlocked the door and opened it.
He and a police sergeant who arrived on scene within minutes removed Meservey from the car and attempted to revive him. The Taser probes were still embedded in Meservey’s shoulder, according to court papers.
Paramedics determined that Meservey was dead.
The sergeant told investigators that Meade was pacing in the parking lot near his patrol car. He was taking deep breaths and appeared to be upset, prosecutors wrote.
Detectives found eight spend bullet casings on the ground near the Corvette. Investigators inspected Meade’s weapon and found that eight rounds were missing from the magazine.
Detectives also noted that 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. It alleges the killing was reckless, 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.
Meade was not named in Roe’s letter, although his name was included in the charging papers. He has been on desk duty or paid leave since the shooting. He now is on paid leave.
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.
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.