Officer testifies in Minden intimidation
A code enforcement officer quit her job after an altercation with a man being investigated for selling drugs on the very day she said a Taser she’d sought for two years arrived, and then she was told insurance wouldn’t cover its use.
Former Douglas County Code Enforcement Officer Kelli Nevills said it took her a year to get the radio she used to call for help when John Patrick Zalewski was screaming obscenities and threatening her on Sept. 3, 2019.
Nevills testified as part of Zalewski’s sentencing on Monday that she was dispatched to the home at 1596 County Road to deal with a motorhome that was parked in the driveway, blocking visibility at the intersection.
After court, she said she was dismayed at the incident and what she referred to the county’s apathy toward her safety.
“The apathetic approach for my safety following the exact event, which I was trying to prevent, was disheartening and disappointing resulting in it being my last day,” she said.
Nevills said in an email to The Record-Courier that she had already given her two weeks notice but after being told that insurance wouldn’t allow her to carry the Taser she quit that day.
Zalewski, 48, was sentenced to an aggregate 3-9 years in prison Monday on charges of maintaining a place for the unlawful use of a controlled substance and intimidating a public officer.
On Monday, Nevills testified that Zalewski came out of the home screaming, cursing and spitting on her as she backed up with her radio on so dispatch could hear what was happening.
Deputies responded to the incident and took Zalewski into custody.
She said she learned from The Record-Courier the next week that the house where Zalewski was arrested was a suspected drug house. Both Zalewski and Jerold Brewer, 48, admitted to charges related to the case.
“I should never have been sent to that house,” she testified.
Prosecutor Chelsea Mazza sought prison for Zalewski, saying he attacked Nevills who was just trying to do her job in addition to selling drugs within a few blocks of Minden Park and the Douglas County School District administrative offices.
“He was selling drugs fairly regularly,” she said.
While Zalewski yelled for Nevills to get off his property, Mazza pointed out that the property was owned by someone else, who has had to repair the home as a result of their occupancy.
“He has a history of violence or drug arrests,” Mazza said listing a number of domestic violence cases against him.
Zalewski said he has been an addict for a long time.
“I used drugs to self-medicate for my mental health problems, which just made them worse,” he said. “I really do wish to change.”
Nevills said Undersheriff Ron Elges was the only person she felt was concerned for her safety.
“He helped me obtain my training for a Taser and a radio,” she said. “The radio took over a year to get due to more administrative hold-ups with the county manager and community development.”
She said that when she did get the radio she was told any time she used it the cost would be billed to Community Development.
“I was not allowed to call out or use it for anything other than an emergency,” she said. “If I needed anything prior to going to a property I felt dangerous I was to call personally on the cell phone.”
The Record-Courier contacted the county about the issue.
“We have been made aware of Ms. Nevills concerns and we are looking into the matter,” county officials said. “We have no further comment at this time.”
The home was the subject of a drug raid by the Sheriff’s Special Weapons and Tactics and Street Enforcement teams the following week where Brewer and two others were arrested.
Brewer faces a maximum of 3-21 years in prison on trafficking and methamphetamine sales at his sentencing on Jan. 7.