The family and friends of murdered Nevada narcotics officer Ron Chelius are asking California Gov. Jerry Brown to once again reverse the parole of Chelius’s killer.
Jeffry Cook has served 34 years in the California prison system for the shooting, which occurred when Chelius tried to arrest him after an undercover drug deal. He was 18 at the time of the crime, in March 1979.
The same board paroled Cook last year as well, but Brown rejected and reversed the decision.
Longtime family friend Brian Johnson, himself a former narcotics officer in Douglas County, said the decision to parole Cook devastated family and friends. Johnson said they plan to petition Brown. Johnson said he and Chelius’s son, one of his best friends growing up in Carson City, remain close.
Chelius’s son, Jason, attended the July parole hearing and told the Vacaville, Calif., newspaper, The Reporter, that the family would again organize a letter-writing campaign to Gov. Brown.
Under California law, the Parole Board staff has up to 120 days to review the decision before it goes to the governor, who then has 30 days to make a decision.
Chelius began his career with the Carson City Sheriff’s Office, becoming an investigator for the Nevada Division of Investigations in 1973. He was called in on a case that originated with the Carson Sheriff’s Office after that office developed information leading to a Sacramento group suspected of selling drugs in Carson City.
Chelius infiltrated the group and, with another teenager identified as Joseph Roberts, went to California to make a buy and arrest the dealers.
According to official documents, Chelius bought 1,000 tablets of LSD for $1,200 from Cook in a North Sacramento parking lot. With California agents watching in hiding, he completed the deal, then told Cook he was under arrest. In the struggle that followed, Chelius was shot once in the chest with a .22-caliber derringer.
Cook and Roberts fled but were captured by other officers.
Brown, in his December letter rejecting Cook’s release, agreed the inmate has made efforts to improve himself in prison, earning his GED and completing vocational programs along with participating in self-help groups.
But, that letter states, “Cook callously murdered a decorated police officer merely to evade capture.”
Cook, the letter states, has repeatedly denied knowing Chelius was a police officer. It says Cook told a psychologist in 2012 he believed Chelius was trying to “rip him off” and panicked when the officer reached for the car keys. He then shot him.
“Mr. Cook’s continued insistence that he was not aware Agent Chelius was a police officer at the time of the shooting strains credulity,” Brown’s letter states, pointing out that the other teen, Roberts, testified he heard Chelius identify himself as a police officer.
“Mr. Cook’s attempts to minimize his actions show that he has not truly taken full responsibility for shooting and killing Agent Chelius. Until Mr. Cook can demonstrate that he understands why he was capable of such a cold and calculated decision, I find that he remains a threat to participate in further acts of violence if released from prison,” the reversal letter concludes.
The Chelius murder was followed just three months later by the murder of Reno Police undercover officer James Hoff. Four men were eventually convicted of that murder. All are still in prison, including Edward Wilson who is now the longest-serving inmate on Nevada’s death row. John Olausen, David Lani and Fred Stites are all serving life sentences.