Courtesy photo

Courtesy photo

City and Auburn police officer sued in federal court; APD refutes claims on Facebook page

The Auburn Police Department and one of its police officers are defendants in a lawsuit that was filed Monday in federal court in Seattle over the alleged killing of an already-subdued man “execution style” in broad daylight in 2017.

The lawsuit, filed by the estate of Isaiah Obet, names the city of Auburn and Officer Jeff Nelson as defendants.

According to the suit, Isaiah Obet, a 25-year-old Pacific Islander, was behaving erratically as the result of an apparent mental disturbance when Nelson released his trained K-9 attack dog, which latched onto Obet’s arm with its jaws.

Although Obet presented no threat to Officer Nelson or anyone else, according to the lawsuit, Nelson shot him in the torso with his .45-caliber service revolver instead of subduing him with a taser with which he was armed and equipped to use. According to the lawsuit, Obet fell to the ground where the dog continued to maul him, and witnesses said he made no attempt to stand up or flee.

According to the suit, Officer Nelson then pointed his gun at Obet’s head, stood over him and shot him dead.

According to the suit, another man whom Officer Nelson shot and killed was Jesse Sarey, also a Pacific Islander, in 2019. Nelson is white. As with Obet, Nelson allegedly shot Sarey once, then killed him with a second shot.

According to the suit, in Nelson’s first fatal shooting, in 2011, he shot and killed an Auburn resident, Brian Scaman, during a traffic stop. Like Isaiah Obet, according to the lawsuit, Nelson shot Scaman in the head.

According to the suit, Nelson has had 65 excessive force complaints lodged against him. On a force with 57 patrol officers and at least 115 officers total, he has committed three of the force’s five officer-involved shootings since 2011.

Odet is survived by his siblings and parents in the Pacific Northwest and in the Pacific Islands.

Isaiah Obet’s estate is represented by David B. Owens and Mariah Garcia of the civil rights law firm Loevy & Loevy Attorneys at Law.

In response to a request for comment, Police Cmdr. Mike Hirman said Wednesday morning that the APD would not comment on open litigation.

After the publication of this article, however, the APD did respond, Thursday afternoon, on its Facebook page, and that response, which refutes the charges, is given below verbatim.

“The City of Auburn is compelled to respond to numerous false and misleading statements made to the media regarding a suit entitled Obet v. City of Auburn.

“Lawyers from Loevy & Loevy of Chicago made numerous false claims in the lawsuit including that police were initially called for “a report of a man acting strangely.” In fact, Auburn Police were called because Isaiah Obet had committed a home invasion robbery armed with a knife, then attempted to car-jack a vehicle driven by a mother with a child in the back seat. It was these calls that caused Auburn Police to respond.

“The lawsuit also claims that Mr. Obet was ‘exhibiting signs of mental distress.’ Victims of the home invasion robbery told police in the 911 call that Obet appeared high on drugs. A toxicology test conducted by the medical examiner showed that Mr. Obet had remarkably high levels of both amphetamine and methamphetamine in his system.

“When Officer Nelson encountered Mr. Obet, just minutes after his attempted violent attacks, Mr. Obet had stopped another car in the middle of the street. He attempted to open the car door and break the window by stabbing at it with a knife.

“Officer Nelson exited his marked patrol car and released his K9 partner, Koen. While the dog did bite Mr. Obet, the bite did not stop Mr. Obet’s attack. Officer Nelson gave Mr. Obet several commands to stop and drop the knife. Mr. Obet, still armed with the knife, refused Officer Nelson’s commands and instead turned to face Officer Nelson. Officer Nelson fired his weapon once, striking Mr. Obet in the upper chest and shoulder.

“While the shot caused Mr. Obet to fall to the ground, it did not disable him. Mr. Obet, still fighting the K9, started to get up off the ground. Officer Nelson shared in his post-incident statement to the Valley Independent Investigative Team that he was fearful that if Mr. Obet got back on his feet, Mr. Obet could stab him with the knife, or injure or kill the driver. Officer Nelson shot a second time and this stopped Mr. Obet’s attack. The claim of the Loevy & Loevy lawyers that Mr. Obet “posed no threat” is simply not true.

“Auburn Chief of Police Dan O’Neil stated, “No police officer goes out to work, wanting to use force, let alone deadly force. We at Auburn PD wish that Mr. Obet had not decided to conduct a violent crime spree in our community, threatening our community members that we have sworn to protect. But he did. If Officer Nelson had not acted that day to protect the community, there could have been additional victims.

“It was reported by some media outlets that Officer Nelson has 65 excessive force complaints. This is not true. To-date, Officer Nelson has never had an excessive force complaint with the Auburn Police Department.

“Chief O’Neil advised that the use of excessive force is not tolerated by the Auburn Police Department and he expects all officers to treat every person they encounter with respect and dignity.”


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