Wash. officer faces murder charge for shooting drunk driver
The officer maintains he feared he was going to be hit by the suspect's car during the incident
EVERETT, Wash. — Troy Meade, the first police officer in Snohomish County to be charged with murder in the line of duty, will not be the only cop on trial in the coming days, jurors were told Wednesday.
In opening statements, Meade's attorney David Allen made it clear that he also intends to question the actions and memory of Everett police officer Steven Klocker, a key prosecution witness.
“Officer Klocker simply is not credible,” Allen told a Snohomish County Superior Court jury. “He ran away that day. He was not backing up Troy Meade that day.”
Klocker witnessed Meade shoot and kill Niles Meservey, 51, outside the Chuckwagon Inn. Meservey was drunk and behind the wheel of his car when the gunfire broke out. Klocker later told investigators that he didn't believe anyone, including Meade, was in imminent danger, deputy prosecutor John Adcock told jurors.
Klocker was “astonished” when Meade began shooting, Adcock said. He believed the officers had other ways to subdue Meservey and defuse the situation.
Klocker could testify as early as today.
Meade, an 11-year police veteran, on Wednesday listened to the lawyers, occasionally whispering to Allen. His wife and other relatives were in court. A few off-duty Everett police officers also sat through opening statements.
“Police officers are supposed to serve and protect. On the night of June 10, 2009, the defendant did neither,” Adcock said. “On June 10, 2009, the defendant committed murder.”
Meade plans to testify, Allen said. The officer refused to give investigators a statement after the shooting. He is expected to say that he feared for his life and the lives of those around him, including Klocker.
Adcock told jurors that Meservey was highly intoxicated, belligerent and uncooperative. He refused to obey Meade's orders to get out of his vehicle even after he was shocked twice by an electronic stun gun. He then crashed his Chevrolet Corvette into a chain-link fence.
Klocker told detectives that Meade began shooting after saying something like “Time to end this. Enough is enough.”
Analysis of the trajectory of the bullets show that Meade wasn't in danger of being run down, Adcock said.
He wasn't legally justified in taking Meservey's life, he added.
“No one, I mean no one is above the law. No one,” Adcock said. “Not a police officer. Not the defendant.”
Meade was just doing his job that night, Allen told jurors. He wanted to get Meservey out of the car, give him a warning and call a taxi to take the drunken man home.
Meade plans to testify that he followed his training when he twice used a Taser in an attempt to subdue Meservey, Allen said. That didn't work. He was still following protocol when he fired his police handgun into the car and continued shooting until he believed Meservey was no longer a threat, Allen said.
Meservey was struck seven times from behind. He died at the scene.
Meade didn't shoot Meservey to keep a drunken driver off the road, Allen said. He fired because Meservey's actions placed Meade's life in danger. Meade had watched a fellow officer in 2006 get flipped into the air when she was hit by a suspect driving away from a police stop, Allen said.
“He knew he was in the line of fire of the Corvette,” Allen said.
Prosecutors on Wednesday called their first witnesses in the case, including the lead detective and patrons from the restaurant where Meservey had been drinking.
Paul Dziechiasz had stopped off for a beer that night on his way home from work at Boeing. Dziechiasz was outside on the restaurant's deck when the shooting happened. He recalled hearing a police officer tell someone in a Corvette to turn off the vehicle's engine. He then heard a loud pop and someone yelped out in pain. That apparently was the sound of Meade firing the Taser.
Dziechiasz told jurors the car crept back about 6 inches, then lurched forward and struck a metal fence. The car bounced back and stopped, the man said. He next heard loud popping noises and saw glass flying out of the rear window.
“I was in a state of shock. The whole thing was surreal,” Dziechiasz said. “I just saw a person get shot.”
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