King County has agreed to pay $3 million to a man who was severely injured when he was shot by King County sheriff’s deputies and officers with the Department of Corrections.
Dustin Theoharis then 29, was unarmed and in bed Feb. 11, 2012, when he was shot 16 timesby officers who were looking for another resident of the Auburn-area home, a man sought in connection with a Department of Corrections (DOC) probation violation, according to court documents.
Theoharis, then 29, was not a suspect, did not display a weapon and did not have access to a weapon when officers woke him, his attorneys said in a statement announcing the settlement on Thursday.
Officers entered his residence without permission (and without knocking on his door), as he slept in his bed,” the statement said. “They went into his room with their guns drawn.”
Some initial reports indicated that one of the officers claimed he thought Theoharis had reached for a gun, but according to a review conducted by the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office the only item found in Theoharis’s bed was a black metal flashlight, 5 inches long and 1 inch wide.
Also next to the bed, within reaching distance, was an end table filled with aluminum cans and a variety of objects, including two black remote controls, the statement said. The gunshots were directed to that side of the bed, a forensic examination showed.
Prosecutors ultimately declined to file criminal charges against deputy Deputy Aaron Thompson or DOC specialist Kristopher Rongen, who both invoked their Fifth Amendment right to remain silent during the investigation.
King County sheriff John Urquhart said one of the first things he did when he took office was conduct an analysis of what happened so that he could understand what led to the shooting.
“My review showed a flawed operation that should have had better supervision, better planning, and a better understanding of the roles and responsibilities when working with the Department of Corrections,” he wrote in an email on Thursday evening.
He ordered additional training for detectives and deputies and suspended any similar operations with DOC.
“This was an extremely unfortunate incident which the Sheriff’s Office regrets deeply,” Urquhart wrote Thursday. “There is nothing I nor King County can do to make Mr. Theoharis “whole” again. Nevertheless, on behalf of the Sheriff’s Office I wish him the best and appreciate his willingness to come to a fair resolution of the case.”
The $3 million settlement resolves the claims against King County but does not address those against DOC and its officer, according to Theoharis’s attorneys, Erik Heipt and Ed Budge.