Howie said the officers were straightforward in their testimony about the shooting at Saddozai’s criminal trial.
“It wasn’t a dramatic case of finding someone trying to talk their way out of something,” he said.
San Mateo County District Attorney Stephen Wagstaffe wrote to Daly City administrators that he had concerns about the shooting, but did not file criminal charges against Nelson because he thought it “unlikely” that a jury “would find beyond a reasonable doubt that his conduct in discharging his firearm was an unreasonable use of force under all of the circumstances.”
Howie, who used to be a prosecutor in Contra Costa County, said he agreed with Wagstaffe’s decision, but that if Saddozai had been killed by Nelson’s bullet, that calculus might change.
Initially, both officers received commendations from then-Daly City Police Chief Manuel Martinez Jr. for “their courageous and tenacious actions in taking a violent career criminal into custody,” according to a news reports citing a department Facebook post, which appears to have since been removed.
Roughly a year later, however, department investigators concluded Nelson shot Saddozai unnecessarily.
“It was determined you did not use reasonable force when attempting to take the suspect into custody,” a Feb. 24, 2017, reprimand letter states, “and therefore you were not in compliance with departmental policy.”
That letter was signed by current Daly City Police Chief Patrick Hensley, who was the department’s field operations bureau commander at the time. Neither Hensley nor Daly City’s city manager responded immediately to requests for comment. Martinez, who now works for the Salinas Police Department, said he couldn’t comment on the incident.
As part of the discipline for violating his department’s use-of-force policy, Nelson was required to complete additional training. Three months after he was reprimanded in February 2017, Nelson retired after a 28-year career with the department.
Nelson’s partner, Officer Drexler, told investigators that she did not fear for her life during the confrontation with Saddozai.
“It happened so fast,” she said, according to records from the internal investigation. “Probably just in general it was a fearful situation, but I wasn't in fear for my safety in that second, I did not see a weapon pointed at me."
Drexler said she only saw a blue pen.
"I would be pretty darn sure that wasn't a gun," Drexler said.
She also told investigators that Saddozai was standing when Nelson shot him and was not aggressive.
Three months after the shooting, Drexler left the department after 30 years with Daly City. She is now a detective with Piedmont police, according to a state database of peace officers.
Saddozai was convicted in 2017 of attempted murder of his girlfriend and is currently serving time at California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi. He has prior convictions in San Mateo County going back to a 2012 case in which he was charged with a number of felonies including kidnapping and sexual assault, according to court records.
This story was produced as part of the California Reporting Project, a collaboration of 40 newsrooms across the state to obtain and report on police misconduct and serious use-of-force records unsealed in 2019.