King County inquest to begin in 2017 fatal shooting by Kent Police

Two officers fired shots at Eugene Nelson, 20, of Seattle

A King County inquest into the 2017 fatal shooting of Eugene Nelson by Kent Police will begin Monday, May 8.

Two officers shot Nelson, 20, of Seattle, early in the morning of Aug. 9, 2017 after he reportedly tried to flee in a vehicle while dragging an officer, according to police reports. Officers had responded to a violation of a domestic violence no-contact order at a business in the 23600 block of 104th Avenue Southeast.

Nelson died from multiple gunshot wounds, according to the King County Medical Examiner’s Office.

King County inquests into deaths caused by law enforcement officers resumed in 2022 after a delay of more than four years. Lawsuits by the cities of Kent, Auburn, Federal Way and Renton challenged King County Executive Dow Constantine’s new order to change the inquests to address concerns of fairness and transparency and push forward with a new process built on stakeholder and community input.

The new program was delayed until the Washington Supreme Court reaffirmed the executive’s order in July 2021.

The purpose of an inquest is to shed light on the facts and circumstances surrounding a death at the hands of law enforcement and facilitate public understanding of these events. At the conclusion of the proceedings, an inquest jury answers a series of questions called interrogatories as directed by the inquest administrator. These interrogatories result in the issuance of a series of findings. The findings may include whether the law enforcement officers acted in line with their agency’s policies and training and whether the death was a result of criminal means.

According to police reports, officers arrived and attempted to make contact with Nelson, who had violated the domestic violence court order three times over the last couple of days – two violations occurring within the previous 24 hours. Nelson reportedly ran from officers as they attempted to apprehend him. A K-9 officer and his police dog were on location and were deployed to assist with the apprehension.

Nelson ran to the vehicle he was driving, which was a reported stolen vehicle, and started the engine. As officers tried again to take Nelson into custody, he reportedly started to drive off, dragging the K-9 officer and his dog.

Two officers fired at Nelson, striking him multiple times, according to police reports. Nelson was declared dead following immediate lifesaving efforts from officers and medical personnel. The K-9 officer and his dog sustained minor injuries.

Police later discovered that Nelson had an active felony warrant for his arrest as well as other misdemeanor warrants, one for domestic violence.

Proceedings for the Nelson inquest will take place in the Conference Center at the Clark Children and Family Justice Center, 1211 E. Alder St. in Seattle. The inquest is scheduled to run weekdays through May 19. The inquest administrator is Robert McBeth, a retired King County District Court judge.

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