Father to sue state patrol in fatal I-5 shooting

Father to sue state patrol in fatal I-5 shooting
CENTRALIA, Wash. (AP) - The father of a man shot by a state trooper on Christmas Day says he plans to sue the Washington State Patrol for using excessive force.

Jerry Larson of Ethel says his son was suffering from depression after several deaths in the family and had never been so aggressive in public. But on Christmas Day, 27-year-old Aaron Larson ran into traffic on I-5 near Federal Way and was shot several times and killed by a trooper after a shock by a Taser failed to subdue him.

A DOT camera showed Larson running down I-5 -- witnesses say with his pants down, exposing himself.

"Aaron was never violent, he was lovable," said his stepmother, Starr Bojorguez-Larson.

She told KOMO 4 News Larson's mother recently died, he had been depressed for several months, and just started working overnight shifts - a dramatic change in hours his family says may have been getting to him.

But they said to their knowledge, he wasn't on drugs, and had quit drinking. They knew he was depressed but didn't think he'd take drastic measures.

We asked her: "On the tape, he looks violent." And she responded, "Yeah, he was not Aaron. He wasn't him. That's why we don't know what happened."

Washington State Patrol spokesman Cliff Pratt said after Larson had been carrying on for about 14 minutes, Trooper Mike Cheek arrived on the scene. Cheek tried to calm the man, but the man would not cooperate.

"Apparently, from what witnesses say, he (Cheek) just stopped, got out of his car, attempted to talk to the subject. And the subject ran straight at him," said Pratt.

Pratt said the man attacked the trooper, throwing punches at him and prompting Cheek to use a Taser on him.

But the man was not weakened by the Taser and reportedly tried to choke the trooper.

The situation ended when Cheek fired several shots and hit Larson, who collapsed on the northbound shoulder of the interstate near Exit 143. Larson died at the scene.

Witness Andrea Wolber told KOMO 4 News she watched Cheek fire the third shot. She then got out of her car to place a coat on Larson, who was bleeding.

But Wolber said Cheek stopped her, told Wolber that Larson "was dead." He then hancuffed the unconscious man.

Larson's sister Sarah Larson said her brother was not a violent man and that the trooper had no reason to shoot him more than once.

"When somebody was trying to save his life, they completely denied him of that. They shot him again after he was on the ground," she said. "He was on the ground. He was doing no harm. You shot him again. Why?"

"We don't understand if he needed to be shot, why couldn't he be shot in the leg or one shot?" wondered Bojorguez-Larson. "Why did it have to be multiple shots? That was unnecessary. We're just trying to find out what and why."

His family is left with memories of a man whose smile they say lit up a room; whose jokes could make you laugh until you cry.

Family members say that doesn't sound like the man seen on the tape.

"I can't even imagine what Aaron was thinking, how he was feeling inside that he felt like the only way he was going to get help was to do what he did," said his cousin Carolyn Cramer-Bader.

Since the original story aired, several more witnesses called Crime Stoppers with what they saw. Some told police Larson was trying to pry their car doors open.

The King County Medical Examiner's office is waiting on toxicology results.

Cheek has been put on administrative leave, as is standard practice following a trooper-involved shooting. The Christmas Day incident is the first time Cheek used deadly force in his career, according to the Washington State Patrol.

The state patrol says the Federal Way Police Department is investigating whether the use of force against Larson was justified.

A state patrol spokesman said rules of protocol that prevent shooting a suspect unnecessarily are in place, but in the heat of the moment, instincts can take over.

Police are reviewing 150 911 calls that flooded in during the incident to get a clearer picture of exactly what happened.