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Arrested Seattle police officer dies from Rattlesnake Lake gunshot wound

Rattlesnake Lake, as seen from the lakeside trailhead parking lot. A man found shot near the trailhead parking lot is believed to be a Seattle police officer under investigation for a drug offense, according to media reports. - Seth Truscott/Staff Photo
Rattlesnake Lake, as seen from the lakeside trailhead parking lot. A man found shot near the trailhead parking lot is believed to be a Seattle police officer under investigation for a drug offense, according to media reports.
— image credit: Seth Truscott/Staff Photo

A Seattle police officer arrested for felony drug possession, and found wounded by an apparent self-inflicted gunshot near North Bend's Rattlesnake Lake, has died.

According to Seattle police and local media reports, Richard F. Nelson, 50, of Issaquah, had been arrested early Thursday morning after an internal investigation.

Nelson was hired by the department in September of 1990 and spent his entire career serving in South Seattle as a patrol officer.

According to reports from Seattle Police, last July, patrol officers in the South Precinct alerted their supervisors that they had concerns about Nelson’s handling of drug evidence seized during the course of routine police work.

As an internal criminal investigation proceeded, there was no proof of misconduct, only suspicion, a Seattle Police spokesman stated. But on Wednesday, January 4, Seattle Police brought in an undercover law enforcement officer from another agency in an effort to gauge whether or not Nelson was handling evidence properly. In a sting, Nelson took custody of drugs, but failed to turn them in by the end of his shift. While driving home, he was stopped by officers, found with concealed drugs, and placed under arrest. His gun and badge were seized, reports stated.

Seattle Police Spokesman Sgt. Sean Whitcomb reported that commanders spoke to Nelson in person, offering a number of referral options for counseling. At 4:16 a.m. Thursday, Nelson was booked into King County Jail for felony drug possession and was later released on his own recognizance at 4:48 a.m.

Whitcomb stated that Nelson wasn’t afforded any more lenient or severe treatment because of his status as a police officer—to be released from custody is normal for first time drug offenders .

At 10:56 a.m., King County Sheriff's Deputies responded to a report from a hiker near Rattlesnake Lake of the injured man.  Deputies discovered what appeared to be Nelson’s truck, with Nelson about 100 yards away. He was taken to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

Nelson's death is an example of the sorrow and devastation caused by drug addiction, Whitcomb stated.

 

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