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The Today File

Your guide to the latest news from around the Northwest

February 17, 2015 at 12:14 PM

Prosecutors: No new evidence to charge cops who shot man 16 times

The King County Prosecutor’s Office has determined there is no new information to support criminal charges against a sheriff’s deputy and a state community corrections officer whose account of an incident in which they shot an unarmed man 16 times was called into question in a civil lawsuit.

Reacting to a judge’s recent ruling that raised questions about the deputy’s and officer’s version of events, prosecutors said in statement that insufficient evidence remains that the two acted with malice or bad faith in violation of state law.

Dustin Theoharis, who survived the wounds, was shot in his bed by Deputy Aaron Thompson and corrections Officer Kristopher Rongen on Feb. 11, 2012, after law-enforcement officers went to an Auburn-area home and took into custody another man sought for violating his community supervision.

King County reached a settlement with Theoharis in 2013, agreeing to pay him $3 million.

Theoharis then brought a federal lawsuit against Rongen.

In their search of the home, Rongen and Thompson fired in a darkened bedroom after Theoharis, according to Rongen, claimed that he had three guns and reached under a mattress

Theoharis disputes that account in his federal suit, alleging Rongen and Thompson fired at him after asking for identification.  Theoharis contends he reached to the floor for his wallet and was turning back with it when he was struck with about 16 shots in the face, arm, legs and abdomen.

On Feb. 6, U.S. District Judge Richard Jones ruled Theoharis’ excessive-force claim in his suit should be heard by a jury in a trial scheduled for June 1.

In denying the state’s request to dismiss the claim, Jones cited conflicting testimony and evidence that raises questions about whether a multipart verbal exchange described by Rongen and Thompson could have occurred in the seconds between when they went to the bedroom and the beginning of the shooting.

Jones’ order also noted that some witnesses heard nothing preceding the shooting, contradicting Rongen’s and Thompson’s assertions that they were often shouting at Theoharis.

The Prosecutor’s Office declined in 2012 to bring criminal charges against Rongen and Thompson, citing in part the refusals of the officers and Theoharis to provide statements at the time.  But prosecutors said they would review any new evidence that emerged in a civil action.

On Friday, the Prosecutor’s Office released this statement:

“We have reviewed the depositions and other documents from the civil case, including the recent ruling from the Federal court presiding over the civil lawsuit. We did not find any new information that would change our legal analysis.

“There remains insufficient evidence that the officers were acting with malice or in bad faith when they used deadly force,” the statement added. “The State would not be able to disprove the justifiable use of deadly force beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, we are unable to file criminal charges. “

Theoharis, 31, a onetime refrigeration mechanic, is still recovering from his injuries and is no longer able to work, according to his attorney.

Comments | More in General news, Government, The Blotter | Topics: federal lawsuit, King County Prosecutor's Office, shooting

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