Local News

Shot 16 times by officers: Innocent man files $20M suit

SEATTLE — Lawyers for Dustin Theoharis, an Auburn man who was shot 16 times in his bed by a sheriff’s deputy and a DOC officer, say they are filing a $20 million lawsuit against the state Department of Corrections.

theoharis1It comes on the heels of a scathing report calling for change in the King County Sheriff’s Office.

“Dustin just had his 12th surgery to reconstruct his jaw, which was basically shattered from one of the bullets,” Eric Heipt, one of the attorneys for Theoharis, said Wednesday.

The county recently agreed to pay him $3 million despite the finding that the shooting was justified.

A total of 16 bullets hit Theoharis in February 2012, when a King County sheriff’s deputy and a DOC officer opened fire on him while serving a search warrant at the Auburn home where he lived.

He wasn’t the man they were after, but officers claimed he reached for what they thought was a gun.

“Without a warrant, you shoot an unarmed man while he’s in his bed 16 times,” said Heipt. “I don’t know how you could possibly conclude that to be a justified shooting.”

That was one of the questions members of the King County Council had as they reviewed a critical report on the aftermath of the shooting.

The report was put together by Merrick Bobb, who is also overseeing reforms in the Seattle Police Department.

“I knew from the outset of this incident there needed to be a deeper review,” said Charles Gaither, the civilian overseer for the sheriff’s office. Gaither said there were several problems in how the investigation was handled.

The officers involved were not immediately interviewed, physical evidence was overlooked and moved, and the first responding supervisor, also a union representaive, acted more as an advocate for officers and less as an investigator.

John Urquhart, the current sheriff, wasn’t with the county at the time, but told the council, “I campaigned on fixing this and I have fixed this.”

Urquhart said he is implementing several policies for officer-involved shootings, including launching internal investigations at the same time any criminal investigations are under way. He’s also added high-tech shooting simulators as part of training.

“The issue isn’t whether we are reviewing shootings and use-of-force by deputies, because we are,” said Urquhart. “The issue is, are we doing a good job of it? And I don’t think we have in the past, so we need to fix that and we’re fixing that.”

Urquhart also told the council the DOC did not cooperate in the investigation, and that led the sheriff’s office to dissolve that partnership.

The DOC on Wednesday would only say it conducted its own review and found appropriate force was used.

But the lawyers for Theoharis are now filing a $20 million lawsuit against the DOC.


39 Comments to “Shot 16 times by officers: Innocent man files $20M suit”

    Lisa Lewis said:
    July 10, 2013 at 6:01 PM

    After being shot that many times, this man is lucky to be alive.

    rhonda said:
    July 10, 2013 at 6:08 PM

    he should sue for more

      Jamie said:
      September 20, 2013 at 10:53 AM

      $3 million is a slap in the face considering these officers almost murdered this man. 12 surgeries? I'm sure the hospital bills alone will take up a chunk of that change. How in the world was this "justified"?

      “The issue isn’t whether we are reviewing shootings and use-of-force by deputies, because we are,” said Urquhart.
      How about PREVENTING shootings and use-of-force against innocent civilians?

    Skip said:
    July 10, 2013 at 7:17 PM

    Oh brother, what a screw-up!

    esco said:
    July 10, 2013 at 7:44 PM

    Easy 20 million there, what a pathetic example of incompetence. Since when is turning an innocent man into Swiss cheese "appropriate force"?

    Matt said:
    July 10, 2013 at 9:28 PM

    I am an advocate for proper force. This is a tad excessive. The DOC is wrong in its conclusion two men furring 8 rounds apiece is overboard. Just goes to show you, the police are not well trained in use of a fire arm. They qualify once a uear and that’s usually the only time they shoot. Civilians train way more. A double rap an it would be over and there would be no 20 mil law suite…

    guest said:
    July 11, 2013 at 8:56 AM

    I don't condone any part of this but when the police point a gun at you and tell you to freeze, how stupid do you have to be to move, much less reach for anything?

      Guest said:
      July 11, 2013 at 9:37 AM

      So, this innocent man is sleeping in his bed, when a group of people coming charging into his house in the dead of night, and he's supposed to lay perfectly still? How is that even logical?
      1.) Even if they yell police, how do you know it's not a home invasion with people yelling "police" to keep you passive?
      2.) You raid a house in the middle of the night and wake someone up to disorientate them, and then get all upset because he wasn't thinking 100% clearly? That doesn't make sense.

      Jamie said:
      September 20, 2013 at 10:57 AM

      Well, unfortunately I can say from experience that it's a little difficult in circumstances like this. Little to my knowledge, a former roommate of mine was involved with some illegal activity and my own home ended up being raided in the middle of the night. Not only am I legally blind without my contacts in, but being awakened in the middle of the night is extremely disorienting. Add darkness to the equation and sleeping aids in my case. Being caught off guard, not sure if I was dreaming, lots of yelling, and everything happened so fast and even now my memory of it is foggy. I had NO idea what was going on, I thought I was being robbed when I was dragged to the ground. I'm glad the officers in my case at least did that much… instead of killing me in the comfort of my own bed.

    Guess said:
    July 11, 2013 at 9:42 AM

    "He wasn’t the man they were after, but officers claimed he reached for what they thought was a gun."
    Well duh. If you're an innocent person who's half-asleep, and the first thing you see when you wake up are random people with guns, you'd probably grab you're gun if you had one too; that isn't a "justifiable reason" to shoot him sixteen times. Had they announced they were there loud enough for him to wake up, or actually done their job and got evidence he was the right person they were after, he wouldn't have had reason to pull out his gun for safety in the first place. What a moron those cops are.

    Anacortes said:
    July 11, 2013 at 12:48 PM

    they should not be able to shoot you unless they physically SEE A GUN!!! oh he moved shoot him he could be reaching for a rocket launcher!!!

      Sunshine said:
      July 11, 2013 at 9:07 PM

      I know that wasn't said to be funny but it tickled me lol… these policemen should be ashamed of themselves for their actions and they should most definitely lose their badges because if there happens to be another victim of these morons he/she might not be as lucky as this guy

        justme said:
        July 12, 2013 at 4:37 PM

        The police were probably surprised that the guy lived through their attack…

    Biller said:
    July 11, 2013 at 3:50 PM

    This article states that both investigations found the use of force justified, yet the title calls the man innocent? So did they shoot a man reaching for his gun, or did they shoot an innocent man? It gives no alternate story, doesn't say whether there was a handgun on site, and eludes to Deputy Union tampering with evidence to suggest the innocence?

      Mlanosa said:
      July 11, 2013 at 7:49 PM

      It also states that the Innocent Man was not who they were looking for. NOT JUSTIFIED.

    ray186 said:
    July 11, 2013 at 6:05 PM

    In any other situation the perpetrators would have been charged with Home Invasion, and Attempted Murder.

    R. Smith said:
    July 11, 2013 at 7:30 PM

    Should be suing for $200 million.

      Pete838 said:
      July 12, 2013 at 6:34 AM

      Unfortunately it would be the taxpayers bearing the burden and not the oafs who committed this crime or their bosses. The insult is that they held a kangaroo court and said it was justified.

        R. Smith said:
        July 12, 2013 at 11:57 AM

        Taxpayers ought to bear the burden. They keep tolerating police forces who pull this kind of BS. If voters pressured the electorate to actually *do* something about these increasingly violent and arbitrary raids, things might change. But instead they stay outraged only until they click the next link or turn the TV channel.

        So, that's fine, I guess, but taxpayers need to be prepared to pay up as a consequence.

    justme said:
    July 11, 2013 at 8:41 PM

    With police, politicians, and most authorities,it will always be "We have investigated ourselves and found that we never do any wrong…If you don't believe us, just ask us, we will tell you…"

    The Seattle area has always had trouble…..

    w00diee said:
    July 11, 2013 at 9:21 PM

    Maybe they will finish him off when he gets home and reaches for an aspirin.

    BHirsh said:
    July 12, 2013 at 12:10 PM

    The cops were illegally in his house w/o a warrant. Indiana has fixed this eventuality by giving color of law to resistance with force against illegal police invasions of people’s homes. If rights actually mean anything, this should spread throughout all the states.

    Fran Gagne said:
    July 12, 2013 at 3:04 PM

    Isn't his a CIVIL RIGHTS violation?

    anonymous said:
    July 13, 2013 at 8:18 AM

    This needs to stop! Too many innocent people are getting hurt! Seeing how the .gov is in reality employed by the people, I say we ban their weapons, get them back to being pease officers and away from law enforcement.

    guest said:
    July 13, 2013 at 11:54 AM

    "The DOC on Wednesday would only say it conducted its own review and found appropriate force was used."

    Gee, what do you expect? What a surprise. disgusting.

    Canadian Perspective said:
    July 13, 2013 at 11:55 AM

    And you wonder why so many people HATE cops, called them Pigs, etc…

    HoXy said:
    August 6, 2013 at 8:30 PM

    I love to sleep

    Esco said:
    October 17, 2013 at 11:40 AM

    So, whatever happened to Dustin? Is he back on his feet yet?

    valur said:
    November 7, 2013 at 1:57 PM

    wow Yes he is very lucky to be alive!!
    And he should get way more than $3 million dollars thats nothing compare to his daily tortures and surgeries and pain he has to go through!!
    Wow our police need to be better trained.

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