Sheriff makes policy changes after man shot 16 times in bed
Relations between the King County Sheriff's Office and the state Department of Corrections have been strained by the shooting of Dustin Theoharis, who last winter was shot multiple times, survived and plans to bring a civil suit.
By Steve Miletich
Relations between the King County Sheriff's Office and the state Department of Corrections (DOC) have been strained after a sheriff's detective and a corrections officer reportedly shot a man about 16 times, severely wounding him during a joint operation that took an unexpected turn.
Both agencies, in separate reviews, found the shooting last year to be justified, but lingering questions about whether the confrontation could have been avoided or handled differently led the Sheriff's Office to tighten its oversight of a longstanding program in which it works closely with the DOC to apprehend so-called high-impact offenders and gang members, according to newly disclosed records.
The fallout also prompted newly elected Sheriff John Urquhart to indefinitely suspend some operations with the DOC because its officer wouldn't cooperate with the sheriff's shooting-review board.
The incident occurred inside an Auburn-area house Feb. 11. The man who was shot, Dustin Theoharis, now 29, survived multiple wounds to his arms, legs, torso and jaw, including fractures that required a series of surgeries.
"He is thankful to be alive, but he has a long way to go to recover," said his attorney, Erik Heipt, of Seattle.
Heipt said Theoharis was shot about 16 times and plans to file a civil suit in which a key issue will be whether the officers had justification to enter the room in which he was shot, Heipt said.
"We think it's pretty clear that they didn't," Heipt said.
DOC Specialist Kris Rongen, assisted by sheriff's Detective Aaron Thompson, went to the house to serve a felony arrest warrant on an ex-offender — someone other than Theoharis — who had failed to report to community supervision. Two other sheriff's detectives joined them.
After taking the ex-offender, Nicholas Harrison, into custody, Thompson and Rongen learned that Theoharis was in a different part of the house, according to a summary prepared by King County prosecutors who reviewed the incident. They decided to check whether Theoharis had a gun, which would be a violation of Harrison's probation.
Rongen and Thompson headed to a dark room where Theoharis was lying in a bed.
"Specialist Rongen and Detective Thompson said that they identified themselves, gave Mr. Theoharis commands that he did not comply with, that he said he had guns, and that it appeared that he was reaching for one," according to a report by the sheriff's shooting review board.
In a written statement, Thompson said he believed Theoharis was reaching for a gun between the box spring and the mattress.
Rongen and Thompson both fired their handguns, hitting Theoharis as he rolled off the bed.
No firearms were found in the room. A flashlight was found in a pool of blood next to the bed, and an end table within reaching distance contained aluminum cans and a variety of objects, including two remote controls, according to the prosecutors' summary.
Also found in the room were heroin, needles, spoons and a scale with heroin residue, although no criminal charges were filed against Theoharis.