San Diego Police Officer David A. Nellis was fired for “falsely reporting” that he was involved in an off-duty shooting, making him the second officer in less than a year to leave the department amid allegations that he fabricated a shooting incident.
According to a termination notice obtained Wednesday from the city Civil Service Commission, Nellis, a four-year police veteran, lied to his superiors when he claimed that two men tried to rob him at gunpoint at a convenience store and that he fired two shots at the men, knocking one of them to the ground.
“You falsely reported that you were involved in an off-duty shooting,” the termination notice says. “Further, you failed to obey lawful orders of superior officers during the investigation, and failed to answer questions truthfully.”
Nellis, along with Officer Mark Keyser, also is charged with felony assault after allegedly beating and kicking a drug suspect after a chase that ended last fall in a Southeast San Diego cemetery. Both officers have pleaded not guilty in that case.
The alleged excessive force incident is not mentioned in the termination notice. Instead, the notice says that Nellis was being fired for falsely reporting the off-duty shooting.
Keyser is still working in the department in a light-duty capacity while his superiors decide whether discipline, if any, should be handed out to him regarding the alleged beating.
Nellis, 30, could not be reached for comment Wednesday. His attorney, Everett Bobbitt, was also unavailable.
Capt. Jerry Sanders, who supervises the Southeastern division where Nellis and Keyser were assigned, declined to comment on Nellis’ firing. He said the department will publicly explain the termination when the appeal is heard within the next two months by the Civil Service Commission.
One police official, however, said that, although Nellis was insistent that the off-duty shooting did occur, investigators could find no evidence, witnesses or a victim at the 7-Eleven convenience store to indicate that it happened.
‘A Pretty Square Cop’
“He was a pretty square cop, and that’s why none of this makes any sense,” said the official, who asked not to be identified.
The manager of the store in the 2100 block of Saipan Drive refused to comment, other than to say he did not recall anything about the alleged incident.
In describing the falsely reported shooting, the termination notice says that Nellis maintained it occurred when he visited the store about 1:30 a.m. April 25.
“You stated that you had gone to a 7-Eleven store,” the notice says. “After making a purchase, you reportedly had a confrontation with two men in the parking lot. One of the men pulled a gun and demanded money.
“You drew your weapon and fired two shots at the armed suspect. The suspect fell to the ground and his companion fled on foot. You left the area, but returned a few minutes later. Upon finding nothing at the scene, you left the area.”
The notice says that Nellis was “untruthful” in subsequent interviews with police supervisors about the alleged shooting and that, therefore, “termination from employment is appropriate.”
Nellis was officially discharged Feb. 8, the same day he appealed the termination to the Civil Service Commission.
In the alleged beating incident involving Nellis and Keyser in September, a 19-year-old construction site worker has complained that the officers beat and kicked him after his hands were handcuffed behind his back and he was forced to lie on his stomach.
At a preliminary hearing in that case, four other police officers invoked the Fifth Amendment and refused to testify about the charges against Nellis and Keyser. The officers said such testimony might incriminate them as well, and police officials are now reviewing their courtroom conduct to determine whether it violated any Police Department policies.
In the other incident involving a falsely reported shooting, Officer Arthur B. Tucker was allowed to resign in June amid an Internal Affairs investigation that he lied on a police report alleging that a driver had shot at him April 13 in Rancho Penasquitos.
Tucker told his superiors that two shots were fired at his car and that he then returned four shots in self-defense.