SPD officer commits suicide following cocaine arrest

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by KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on January 5, 2012 at 1:25 PM

Updated Thursday, Jan 5 at 10:43 PM

SEATTLE – A Seattle police officer who was arrested for possession of cocaine Thursday morning committed suicide after he was released from jail.

The body of Officer Richard F. Nelson, 50, was found on the John Wayne Trail near Rattlesnake Lake with a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Seattle Police said.

Just hours earlier, Nelson was arrested and booked into the King County Jail after police officers in the Rainier Valley area provided him with an unknown amount of cocaine.

Nelson was pulled over in his personal vehicle and arrested following the end of his shift.

Nelson was the subject of an internal investigation within the department called an "integrity test," said Seattle Police Chief John Diaz, after concerns surfaced that narcotic evidence was not being handled properly by Nelson.

Click here to find out what an "integrity test" is

"I can't let those things go, they have to be followed through," said Diaz.

Nelson was arrested at 4:16 a.m. and released on his own recognizance at 4:48. His service weapon was taken away, and he was driven home by command staff.

Nelson, a 22-year veteran, was hired in September of 1990 and worked in the South Precinct. He previously worked as a bicycle officer in the Rainier Valley. He has two teenage children.

"Officer Nelson was a good man, he was a good officer," said his former partner, Officer Brian Gunther. "Being a partner for nine hours a day in a patrol car or riding bicycles together, you share a bond that very few people can understand."

Click here to hear more from Nelson's former partner

"This is a tremendous tragedy, we have a lot of officers who are grieving," said Deputy Chief Nick Metz, Deputy Chief of Operations. "He was a friend to many."

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn stressed that Nelson was a member of the community, despite alleged faults.

"This is a human being who is fallible, who had a drug addiction, apparently, and that can strike anybody," said McGinn.

Click here to find out why officers struggle with getting help

Officials would not say whether this is the only "integrity test" ever conducted within SPD, but said they are rare.

Diaz said he requested an audit of all narcotics incidents Officer Nelson has been involved in.

SPD does not conduct random drug or alcohol testing of officers and employees.

Public records indicate Officer Nelson earned $99,183 in 2009.

News of the internal investigation comes after the Seattle Police Department was admonished last month by the U.S. Department of Justice, saying Seattle police have engaged in a pattern of excessive force and the department had an inadequate systems of supervision and oversight . DOJ ordered the department to implement a number of reforms.

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