During his four-year career in law enforcement, Trevor Davidson has worked as an officer for police departments in two Western Washington cities — first in Everett and now in Renton.

For much of the same time, Davidson also privately partnered in two business ventures with Ethan Nordean, the self-described “sergeant of arms” for the Seattle chapter of the right-wing extremist group the Proud Boys and who now stands accused of leading an angry mob of Trump supporters at last month’s deadly rampage through the U.S. Capitol.

The business relationship between the 27-year-old Renton cop, sworn to uphold the law, and the 30-year-old Auburn-area militant, known for his street brawling, apparently went unnoticed by both local police agencies.

Davidson’s association with Nordean, which also may have violated officer ethics and conduct codes for each department, emerges at a time of growing public concern and scrutiny over the ties between law enforcement and extremist groups.

Reached by phone Thursday, Davidson declined to offer details about his relationship with Nordean.

Times Watchdog reporting digs deep to expose wrongdoing and hold powerful interests accountable to the public. Support watchdog journalism with a tax-deductible donation to The Seattle Times Investigative Journalism Fund.
Advertising

“Honestly man, I’m not interested in discussing that with you,” he said. “That was a while back, I’m not involved with him anymore. Talking about it could just ruin my career. Have a good day.”

After The Seattle Times shared public records showing Davidson’s business ties to Nordean with Everett and Renton police, spokespersons for each said their departments didn’t immediately know about the relationship and would review it.

Everett police spokesman Aaron Snell later said the department was still “checking the personnel and background files,” but hadn’t found “any indications or accusations” of Davidson’s ties to extremism.

Renton police contacted Davidson Thursday, his day off, Renton Police Cmdr. Dave Leibman said.

“What he has told us was that he met Mr. Nordean at church in 2017,” Leibman said. “They had a common interest in working out, so they created a supplement business.”

Leibman said Davidson also explained that after the first business failed, he and Nordean started another one in 2019, after which Davidson soon “figured out Mr. Nordean’s past … and said he terminated their relationship altogether.”

Advertising

But one witness’s account and information in state business records appear at odds with some details in the description Davidson gave to his department about the relationship.

As far as Leibman knows, Davidson never voluntarily disclosed his relationship with Nordean to the department. Davidson will remain on the job while Renton police continue to review the relationship, Leibman said.

Selling supplements

At least on paper, Davidson and Nordean’s business relationship formally began on Oct. 17, 2017, when the two men registered Bangarang Elite Supplements as a limited liability corporation (LLC) with the Washington secretary of state’s office, records show.

By then, Davidson, a U.S. Marine Corps reservist, had been working for 8 1/2 months as an Everett police officer, and Nordean, an Auburn-area bodybuilder, had been drawing attention for his clashes with antifascist counter-protesters at right-wing rallies in Portland and Seattle.

Registration records show the two men’s commercial venture — selling fitness supplements — listed both Nordean and Davidson as governing directors. The documents also identify Nordean as the firm’s registered agent, with Davidson as its primary contact. The address given for the firm was that of Nordean’s home — a three-bedroom rambler, owned by his parents, who lived nearby on the same suburban street east of Auburn.

Since about 2015, Nordean had been selling homemade pre-workout supplements for $5 a bottle to his co-workers at Wally’s Chowder House, a Des Moines restaurant owned by Nordean’s father, according to a south King County resident who then worked with Nordean.

Advertising

The co-worker, who asked not to be identified out of fear for his personal safety, recalled the supplements were sold both as a pale yellow powder, in small plastic bottles, and as a premixed drink in larger, sealed bottles.

“He was calling it ‘Bangarang’ then, and even had printed up some cheesy labels for the bottles,” said the co-worker, who tried the supplement. “When you took it, it would make you all tingly and itchy and raise your heart rate.”

Around the same time, Nordean brought Davidson to Wally’s on at least two occasions, the former coworker said. “He came in a couple times to eat with Ethan,” he said. “It didn’t seem like a purely business relationship. They were definitely buddies.”

The timing of the co-worker’s recollection conflicts with the account Davidson gave to Renton police about meeting Nordean in 2017.

Before his hiring in Everett on Feb. 1 2017, Davidson, who was raised in Auburn, worked for about a year at a sewer district in Des Moines, according to remarks given by Everett’s police chief at Davidson’s swearing-in ceremony.

Three months after Davidson joined the Everett police force, Nordean attended his first rally — the 2017 May Day events in Seattle, where Nordean was “introduced to the Proud Boys,” according to an interview he later gave with right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

Sponsored

Five months later, in October 2017, Davidson and Nordean registered Bangarang as an LLC, and started selling supplements for $40 per tub through Nordean’s PayPal link on a since-defunct Facebook page, titled “Team Bangarang.”

By July 2018, the page was drawing mixed reviews from purported customers. “I take this pre-workout supplement before knocking out commies,” one poster wrote. “Toxic powder for eunuchs,” another chimed in.

By then, Nordean’s celebrity in right-wing circles was exploding. During a Proud Boys rally-turned-riot in Portland on June 30, 2018, he punched a counter-protester in the face when the man swung a baton at him, dropping the man onto the street.

Send us a tip

Tips are the lifeblood of investigative reporting. Good tips are clear, specific, have documents or evidence to back them up and involve a problem with real-world consequences. We accept tips by several methods, including through secure encrypted email, text and phone calls, as well as mail, so a reporter can follow up with you.

Video of Nordean’s knock-out blow went viral, with Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes praising and posting it on a loop on social media. In early July 2018, Nordean appeared on Jones’ InfoWars broadcast, calling for new recruits to join the group. Soon after, Nordean’s alias, Rufio Panman, began showing up on the Proud Boys national leadership lists, according to extremist watchdogs.

Davidson, meanwhile, left Everett in April 2018 for a higher-paying officer’s job in Renton, where he then made about $96,000 a year, state retirement records show.

Advertising

Business records

By late 2018, a year after Nordean and Davidson had registered the Bangarang firm, they failed to submit an annual report required to keep its registration active and didn’t respond to delinquency notices. The state dissolved the company’s registration in March 2019, records show.

Two months later, Davidson registered a new supplements business with the state called Iron Glory LLC. Both he and Nordean are listed as Iron Glory’s “co-founders” on a state business license.

A Facebook page created for Iron Glory shows a single post in September 2019 announcing: “Coming soon… The most effective all-natural supplements to hit the market!”

According to the account Davidson gave his department, he learned “soon after” starting the second venture about Nordean’s extremist background and halted business operations, Leibman, the Renton spokesperson, said.

“The employee said he didn’t realize the business was still a thing until the state contacted him about the license later, and at that point, he shut it down,” he said.

But records show the state administratively dissolved Iron Glory’s registration in October 2020 after it failed to file an annual report or respond to delinquency notices. Iron Glory’s reseller permit, which allowed it to buy items for resale without paying sales tax, expired on Dec. 18.

Advertising

Less than three weeks later, Nordean was in Washington, D.C., widely captured in photographs and videos in his trademark backwards ballcap and sunglasses, at times speaking through a bullhorn. A livestreamer for the Proud Boys broadcast video of him leading a large group to the Capitol, just before he and other Proud Boys he was with allegedly broke through a police line and breached the building.

Nordean was arrested at his home Feb. 3 and charged with four federal criminal counts. He has since been taken to Washington D.C. to face further proceedings, and faces more than 30 years in prison if convicted.

Ethical questions

Aside from public trust and perception problems, Davidson’s association with Nordean could run afoul of officer ethics and conduct rules at both departments where he has worked.

“If it is just a business relationship and there wasn’t any specific knowledge by [Davidson] of what [Nordean] was into, then there may not be any violations,” Leibman said. “But it depends on the specific details we find.”

Professional-conduct standards generally bar police officers from associating with people involved in illegal or improper behavior, engaging in conduct that may bring discredit upon their department or erode the public’s confidence in it.

The Proud Boys describe themselves as “Western chauvinists,” and the group’s founder has openly advocated violence. In late 2018, the FBI designated the group as “an extremist group with ties to white nationalism.”

Advertising

That classification emerged in a 2018 Clark County Sheriff’s Office internal investigation into a deputy whose ex-boyfriend was a member, and who was found to be manufacturing and selling “Proud Boy Girls” apparel. The department fired her.

“As a law enforcement officer, you should have an issue with associating with a member of a group that openly acknowledges and professes to carrying out acts of violence,” said Mike German, a former FBI agent and fellow in the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School. “But the totality of circumstances matter.”

German, who recently wrote a report examining cases of police ties to extremist groups across the nation, noted an officer’s links to an extremist within a large corporation of hundreds of people whose affiliations are largely unknown to one another may be less troublesome.

“But if it’s a two-person business where you’re in close contact with your partner and know of their personal pursuits outside of the business, that’s something else entirely,” he said, speaking generally.