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Law Enforcement Officers Accused of Shooting an Innocent Man Twenty Times

July 24, 2013

While the political and racial implications of the George Zimmerman criminal trial over the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin has dominated media headlines recently, another fatal shooting may have as much or more basis for attention based on the potential civil rights violations based on a news report.  A sheriff’s deputy and an officer from the department of corrections in another state shot Dustin Theoharis twenty times when they showed up at his house to arrest someone else based on the news story.

Theoharis was not the man that the police and correction officers had come to arrest; rather, the law enforcement officers were there to arrest another man for a parole violation.  The officers came across Theoharis, who was asleep in bed in the basement room that he was renting, during the law enforcement authorities search of the premises.  The article indicates that it is believed the officers fired 20 times at Theoharis while he was lying in bed.  The deputies and correctional officer’s bullets struck Theoharis sixteen times during the fatal shooting.  The officers defended their actions by indicating that they thought Theoharis was reaching for a gun.

This law enforcement shooting victim suffered horrific injuries.  The media report indicates that he suffered broken legs, two broken arms, liver and spleen damage, a compression fracture to his spine, a broken shoulder and facial reconstruction of his jaw.  The shooting victim has already had to undergo twelve separate surgeries.

While King County has already paid Theoharis a $3 million settlement, the firearm injury victim has filed suit against the department of corrections for $20 million for their role in this terrible shooting tragedy.  This lawsuit has been filed in the immediate wake of an official investigation into the shooting that is extremely critical of the law enforcement officer’s actions according to the media report.  The review concludes that the officer shooting incident “highlights significant weaknesses in existing policies and practices regarding deadly force investigations.”  The report suggests that the sheriff’s investigation put a higher priority on defending the officers than investigating whether the shooting was the product of improper or excessive use of deadly force.

Although it is premature to determine the outcome of the lawsuit against the correctional department, this case presents challenges because it involves law enforcement officers that are employed by public entities.  Those who suffer injuries and fatalities caused by an unjustified shooting or excessive force may pursue a legal claim for damages through a civil lawsuit, the party must first comply with special procedures under government tort claims act statutes.  These laws require injury victims to comply with special procedures and timing requirements when pursuing a claim against a state, county or municipality.  Lawsuits that are based on allegations of police brutality also can be difficult because the police and other law enforcement officers also may benefit from qualified immunity.

If you or a close family member is injured by a law enforcement officer in an incident involving unjustified or excessive force, our Georgia personal injury attorneys are available to provide effective legal representation to those throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast.  

No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333).  You can also visit us online at and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.

Category: Personal Injury

Please Note:
Many of our blog articles discuss the law. All information provided about the law is very general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Every situation is different, and should be analyzed by a lawyer who can provide individualized advice based on the facts involved in your unique situation, and a consideration of all of the nuances of the statutes and case law that apply at the time.