Police Abuse

Cops Shoot Man in Bed, Shooting Ruled Justified: 'I thought he was trying to kill us, there is no greater level of threat'

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shot by cops
KING5 screencap

Dustin Theoharis, who has had 12 surgeries since police shot him 16 times in 2011, is suing the Washington Department of Corrections for its involvement after agreeing to a $3 million settlement from King County in lieu of litigation. Both the King County Sheriff's Office and the Washington DOC previously ruled the shooting justified, and both officers involved appear to remain employed. Via KING5, Seattle's NBC affiliate:

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."

It's estimated that the two officers fired more than 20 bullets; 16 hit Theoharis, who was lying in bed.  The officers said they thought Theoharis was reaching for a gun.  They later told investigators they weren't sure how many bullets they fired.

"I thought he was going to try to kill us, there is no greater level of threat," King County Deputy Aaron Thompson told investigators during an interview months after the shooting.

Theoharis didn't have any weapons, but both the Sheriff's Office and the Department of Corrections ruled the shooting justified and in compliance with policy.

A new civilian watchdog at the Sheriff's Office, meanwhile, released its report on problems with the shooting. Its findings may be shocking but they're unfortunately not surprising: the union contract, for example, allowed a 72 hour delay of any request for a written statement. The police officers involved refused to make

shot a man in bed
KING5 screencap

statements at the scenes, while a written statement came a month later. No one from the internal affairs unit showed up at the shooting, and an investigation wasn't opened until six months later. The Sheriff's Office appeared more concerned in defending its officers than investigating the incident. The report noted that the first responding sergeant was in charge of the crime scene before becoming a supervisor, a neutral party, and finally an advocate for the officer, acting as one of his representatives in an internal affairs interview.

None of these issues are unique to King's County, but unlike your constitutional right to bear arms, national lawmakers aren't likely to be targeting police brutality as a national issue any time soon.

There's a book out about how we got here.