Everett officer on trial says he feared for his life before shooting driver
Troy Meade, the Everett police officer on trial for murder, testified Thursday that he feared for his life when he fatally shot an apparently drunken man who was seated in a car and attempting to drive away.
Seattle Times staff reporter
EVERETT — Everett police Officer Troy Meade said his vision narrowed and his hearing became muffled as he aimed his handgun at the driver's headrest of a white Chevrolet Corvette, after the driver put it in gear, lurched forward into a fence and then came in reverse toward him.
Meade, who is on trial for murder, took the stand in his own defense on Thursday and testified that he felt he and another officer were in imminent danger of being struck by the Corvette.
He told jurors that his first gunshot shattered the car's rear window, and he observed subsequent bullets tear into the car's interior. Meade initially thought he'd fired four times — when in fact he fired eight — and told jurors he stopped shooting when he saw the driver, Niles Meservey, slump to the right.
Meservey, 51, was shot seven times and died at the scene.
"I hoped to go my whole career without having to shoot somebody," said Meade, 41, who testified that he didn't feel he had any other option but to fire.
Later, in response to a question from defense attorney David Allen about his emotional response immediately after the shooting, Meade told jurors: "I was in shock, I was upset. I thought for sure he was dead. I saw Mr. Meservey slump down like this and I knew the threat was no more."
Meade's testimony was the first time he has spoken publicly about the June 10 shooting in the parking lot of the Chuckwagon Inn in Everett.
That night, Meade responded to a report that a drunken man was trying to drive away from the restaurant.
When Meade walked up to the Corvette in the parking lot, the vehicle's alarm was going off and the officer could see the driver fumbling for his keys, he testified. Meservey turned on the ignition, partially rolled down his window and swore at the officer, saying over and over again that "this is [expletive] entrapment," Meade testified.
Meade said he tried to persuade Meservey to get out of the car and take a taxi home and Meservey cut the engine. But then, Meservey started the car again and reached for the gear shift — and Meade fired his Taser, he testified. The probes hit Meservey's left shoulder but failed to cause him to stiffen, Meade said.
"He was in pain from the charge but he was still lunging for the gear shift," Meade told the jury. "I realized he was going to get that car in gear."
Meade testified that he was standing to the left and rear of the Corvette when he fired.
Meade said the window of Meservey's Corvette wasn't rolled down low enough, and the quarters were too tight, for him to use his baton. He also testified that he wasn't carrying pepper spray, noting that the Everett Police Department requires officers to carry Tasers and either a baton or pepper spray, but not both.
After the shooting, Meservey's blood-alcohol level was measured at 0.26, more than three times the state's legal limit.
Meade also testified that he was cognizant of a similar incident in 2006, when he witnessed another officer get hit and injured by a car driven by a domestic-violence suspect who was attempting to flee. Meade also fired in that incident but didn't hit the driver, he said.
Snohomish County Deputy Prosecutor John Adcock grilled Meade on cross-examination about other tactical options open to him, accusing Meade of using deadly force when he could have instead taken two steps back and used a nearby sport-utility vehicle for cover.
The two men verbally sparred for more than half an hour, with Meade disputing earlier testimony — including from state witness Officer Steven Klocker — that he was not in any danger of being hit by Meservey's car.
After Meade said he didn't realize how close he was to the SUV's rear bumper, Adcock told him, "it's your fault you didn't have situational awareness," referring to the principle that officers be aware of their surroundings at all times.
Meade responded: "I don't think it's anyone's fault," adding that events unfolded quickly. Adcock retorted: "The state of Washington thinks it's your fault."
Last week, Klocker testified he was "kind of at a loss" when Meade opened fire. "I was wondering what I missed to bring it to that extreme level of force," Klocker testified.
Klocker said he believed he and Meade still had nonlethal options available to him, including reusing the Taser, applying a baton or stepping back and reassessing the situation.
Earlier this week, an attorney representing the city of Everett in a civil claim filed by Meservey's family sent stacks of documents to both the prosecution and defense in the Meade case, according to the Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney's Office.
Included in e-mails released by the Prosecutor's Office were transcripts of testimony from Klocker in two earlier criminal trials, along with handwritten notes by Everett Deputy Police Chief Kathy Atwood.
The Herald in Everett reported Wednesday that some of those documents challenged Klocker's truthfulness in those earlier cases. Efforts to reach attorney Lou Peterson, who is representing the city in the civil lawsuit, were unsuccessful.
After Meade testified on Thursday, a rebuttal witness was called by the state to discuss police officers' use-of-force training. Both sides then rested their cases. Closing arguments are scheduled for Friday.
Seattle Times reporter Christine Clarridge contributed to this report, which includes information from Times archives.
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