Auburn

Unarmed man shot 16 times files $20 million suit against DOC

Unarmed man shot 16 times files $20 million suit against DOC »Play Video
Dustin Theoharis
SEATTLE -- An unarmed man shot 16 times by officers is now filing a $20 million claim against the Department of Corrections.

The incident also led to a scathing report about how King County deputies mishandled the investigation.

Shane Harrison remembers clearly the day officers barged in and shot his roommate 16 times.

"I would say they opened the door and started shooting," Harrison said.

King County sheriff's deputies and Department of Corrections officers went to the Auburn home to arrest a man for violating parole.

Dustin Theoharis, the man they shot, wasn't the guy they were after.

Theoharis had a 12th surgery this week and doctors say his life will never be the same.

As for the officers, undercover sheriff's detective Aaron Thompson and DOC specialist Kris Rongen, neither were disciplined.

The officers say they thought Theoharis was reaching for a gun, though no weapons were found in the room.

County leaders convened Wednesday to consider a report that finds the shooting justified, but questions how officers ended up in a deadly-force situation in the first place.

"This case calls for a broad searching examination of the officer's conduct," said Chris Moulton with the Police Assessment Resource Center.

The independent review also found evidence the sheriff's office was more interested in advocating for its officers than uncovering the facts behind the shooting. Sheriff John Urquhart, who wasn't in charge at the time, says it's these very problems he has been working to change.

"Didn't happen on my watch. I didn't work for the sheriff's office," Urquhart said. "I campaigned on fixing this, and I have fixed this."

The victim's attorney says his client appreciates the attention the sheriff's office has given this investigation, but can't say the same for the Department of Corrections.

"I haven't seen anything to suggest that they've acknowledged any wrongdoing or mistakes," said Erik Heipt, Theoharis' attorney. "Nothing about ordering new training or anything."

The DOC says its officer used appropriate force and followed department procedures.

King County agreed to pay $3 million to avoid litigation while the sheriff negotiates with the police guild bargaining unit to make recommended changes.