The last vestige of the murder of Park County Sheriff’s Office Corporal Nate Carrigan was a civil lawsuit by his estate against the defendants: PCSO, ex-Sheriff Fred Wegener and Mark Hancock. The suit was dismissed, March 29, by United States District Court Senior Judge Marcia S. Krieger.
Carrigan was shot and killed by home squatter Martin Wirth, during an eviction at 36 Iris Drive in Bailey Feb. 24, 2016. Besides the death of Carrigan, Master Patrol Deputy Kolby Martin was shot multiple times in the lower extremities, and former Captain Mark Hancock was grazed on the ear.
The civil suit against the defendants, as laid out in the dismissal order stated, in part, “ … Mr. Wirth was known to members of the PCSO to be armed, dangerous, and to harbor anti-government and anti-law enforcement sentiments; he was also known to have recently expressed threats to ‘shoot the first cop [he] sees,’ among others …
“Undersheriff Monte Gore considered Mr. Wirth to be ‘extremely dangerous’ and both homicidal and suicidal. … Over the span of about two weeks, Undersheriff Gore and the seven PCSO officers that would be involved in the operation held a series of meetings to plan a ‘tactical operation’ to complete the job. …
“Most significantly, Undersheriff Gore was concerned that Mr. Wirth ‘may come out of the residence and go back in.’ In his experience, dangerous individuals ‘will come out of the residence to assess how many officers you have and assess the situation themselves,’ and then return inside to barricade themselves within the residence.”
Two major claims were made by the plaintiffs in the suit, first that the plaintiff seeks relief based on the theory that the Defendants created the danger that a private actor would harm the Plaintiffs by ordering the breach of Mr. Wirth’s residence, and a second claim based on the theory that the Sheriff failed to adequately train and/or supervise his deputies.
As the judge concluded in her opinion, “The events of February 24, 2016, were unquestionably tragic. The PCSO had deliberately planned an operation to evict Mr. Wirth in a way that carefully considered the risks to the officers involved (as well as to Mr. Wirth) and devised a conservative approach that would maximize the likelihood of the situation resolving peacefully.
“Captain Hancock’s self-described ‘super aggressiveness’ on the day of the event inexplicably discarded that careful planning, unnecessarily sending his coworkers into a chaotic and dangerous situation that cost Corporal Carrigan his life and injured Deputies Martin and Threlkel.
“As terrible and unnecessary as those events were, they are part of the inherent risks that law-enforcement officers agree to take on when they take up their badge. As such, the Constitution does not provide the Plaintiffs a remedy.”
The judge’s opinion was that these kinds of outcomes of law enforcement operations are part of the job, and that was the risk that Carrigan and all the other officers took as part of their daily duties.