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The Today File

Your guide to the latest news from around the Northwest

February 19, 2015 at 6:01 PM

State to pay $2.5 million to man shot 16 times by police

The state Department of Corrections has agreed to pay $2.5 million to Dustin Theoharis, who survived being shot 16 times by a corrections officer and a King County sheriff’s deputy in 2012.

The settlement comes less than two weeks after U.S. District Judge Richard Jones ruled that Theoharis’ excessive-force claim contained in a lawsuit should be heard by a jury at a trial set for June 1. Jones’ order raised serious questions about the actions of the officer and deputy.

Theoharis 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.

A onetime refrigeration mechanic, Theoharis, 31, is no longer able to work as a result of the shooting, according to his attorney.

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

Theoharis then brought a federal lawsuit against Rongen.

Rongen and Thompson, along with other law-enforcement officers, went to the Auburn-area home to arrest a man sought for violating his community supervision. After taking that man into custody, they went to a darkened, lower-level bedroom and confronted Theoharis with guns drawn.

Theoharis said he was napping, oblivious to their presence.

Theoharis asserts he woke to two people pointing flashlights in his eyes, with one asking him in a normal voice if he had any identification.

He said he responded, “Yeah, it’s right here,” and reached to the floor for his wallet.

When he turned back with his wallet in his hand, he alleges, Rongen and Thompson opened fire, hitting him in the face, arms, legs and abdomen with about 16 shots.

Rongen and Thompson said they believed Theoharis was reaching for a gun.

Judge Jones, in a 31-page order issued earlier this month, denied the state’s request to dismiss Theoharis’ claim, citing conflicting versions of what occurred.

“Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Mr. Theoharis,” Jones wrote, referring to the standard of review, “the shooting constituted excessive force in violation of clearly established Fourth Amendment law.”

The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office declined to bring criminal charges against Rongen and Thompson in 2012, citing their and Theoharis’ refusals to give statements at the time and limited evidence suggesting Theoharis reached for a gun.

 

Comments | More in Government, The Blotter | Topics: King County Sheriff's Office, Officer-involved shooting, shooting

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