King County, WA — Dustin Theoharis was asleep in his bed when a Department of Corrections officer, and King County Sherriff’s deputy rushed into his house on February 11, 2012. The two cops busted into his bedroom and began to unload their pistols on this unarmed man.
It is estimated that the two officers fired over 20 rounds of which 16 landed in Mr. Theoharis. According to Theoharis’s attorney, Erik Heipt, “Theoharis suffered “a broken shoulder, 2 broken arms, broken legs, he had a compression fracture to his spine, damage to his liver and spleen.”
To add insult to attempted murder, Theoharis was not the guy the police were after. According to King 5 News Seattle, the King County Sheriff’s deputy and Washington Department of Corrections officer who shot him were at the house to arrest a man who’d violated his parole.
Cole Harrison, who was at the house, described it this way: “They (the officers) rushed into that room like they were going to get somebody. I mean they rushed down there and then all of a sudden. Boom, boom, boom, boom.”
King County reached a settlement with Theoharis in 2013, agreeing to pay him $3 million. But Theoharis brought a federal lawsuit against the officers.
Officers claimed that Theoharis was reaching for a gun. Although Theoharis would have been entirely justified reaching for a gun, as his life was clearly in danger, he denies this claim.
According to the Seattle Times, in his federal suit, Theoharis alleges 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.
After hearing the details of this case on Feb. 6, 2015 US 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 a travesty of justice, reacting to Jones’ 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.
After reviewing the conflicting reports of that fateful evening, it is clear that prosecutors are either covering for their boys in blue or haven’t looked at any of the evidence.
A review was requested by Charles Gaither, a civilian watchdog of the Sheriff’s Office in July of 2013. The review was conducted by a police accountability expert, Merrick Bobb.
The review showed that the officers refused to be interviewed on the scene, and no internal investigation was ordered. In fact, Deputy Aaron Thompson didn’t even issue a statement until a month later. Presumably after he was able to fabricate the events of that evening.
The report also suggests that the Sheriff’s Office did more to cover for the two officers than it did to investigate the shooting; citing an apparent conflict of interest right from the start.
“Under KCSO policy, the first supervisor to arrive at the scene is obliged to assume control of the crime scene, direct involved personnel, and take on preliminary investigation responsibilities. (G.O. 6.02.015, subd. Clearly, given the sensitive issues that often accompany deadly force incidents, the neutrality of the supervisor needs to remain unquestioned. In this case, however, the first responding supervisor, KCSO Sergeant D, did not maintain the position of neutrality. Shortly after arriving on the scene, he switched roles from supervisor and neutral party to officer advocate.”
Also noted in the report is the severe incompetence or deliberate deficiency of the Sherriff’s Office when conducting the investigation.
“Nonetheless, we were deeply troubled by serious deficiencies in the underlying investigation and the apparent unwillingness of KCSO to question its own officers about the use of deadly force once it appeared that they have not committed a crime. For example, the involved officers were not immediately interviewed about their actions, but instead were given over a month to provide a written account of the shooting. In addition, physical evidence was overlooked or moved, witness interviews were not thorough, and inconsistencies were not adequately addressed.”
Meanwhile, Dustin Theoharis has undergone 12 surgeries and will never be the same again. This is a travesty of justice. And sadly it’s just another example of how police can shield themselves from crimes they commit by being the enforcement cog in the rusty bureaucratic machine that is the state.