An Auburn man shot 16 times by a corrections officer and King County Sheriff’s deputy has settled with the county for $3 million and is now suing the Washington State Department of Corrections for an additional $20 million.
Dustin Theoharis was shot as he lay in bed. The officers involved believed he was reaching for a gun after they burst into his room while serving an arrest warrant on a housemate in 2012.
Theoharis survived but suffered a shattered jaw and shoulder, a fractured spine, and other injuries.
Lawyers for Theoharis say he didn’t have access to a weapon when officers woke him on Feb. 11, 2012.
The suit against the state was filed on the same day an independent review of the shooting found it justified but criticized the way the case was investigated.
Charles Gaither, the Director of the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight for King County, says the officers involved had not been interviewed and their rationale for using deadly force was not fully known. Gaither says he asked why evidence hadn’t been gathered.
“When I asked a major crimes detective why these important pieces of evidence had not been collected, the detective replied, ‘It did not have evidentiary value.'”
King County Sheriff John Urquhart, who was not serving as sheriff at the time of the incident, says there was no disciplinary action taken.
“No one (involved in) this incident received any discipline whatsoever. Remember, when I got in the sheriff’s office it was too late. I couldn’t open up any investigation because we have a 180-day rule.”
Urquhart is pushing for changes, including changing the rule that gives his deputies three days to issue a statement.
“Many police departments, for whatever reason, including the Seattle Police Department I believe, have a 72-hour rule, where we are not allowed by union rules to interview. We get some information, but a thorough, in-depth interview can’t take place until 72-hours after a shooting,” Urquhart tells KIRO Radio’s Ross and Burbank Show. “In my department, I want to have the flexibility to make the decision of when I’m going to do that interview, quite frankly.”
Urquhart also plans to launch an administrative review, in addition to a criminal review, in cases where a deputy shoots someone. He’s also ordered additional training across the board in the department following the incident.
Following the filing of the new claim by Theoharis, the Department of Corrections issued a statement on Wednesday saying they will not discuss details of the case until the claim is resolved.
“We have already conducted a thorough review and determined that the specialist used appropriate force and followed the proper procedures in a dangerous situation. We will wait until after the claim is resolved to discuss specific details.”