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Court dismisses $20 million claim of excessive force

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The Federal Western District Court of Tacoma dismissed all claims against Pierce County and Pierce County Sheriff’s Deputy Chad Helligso in the 2014 officer involved shooting that led to the death of Michael Lee Bourquin, 21. Pierce County moved to dismiss all claims in a pre-trial motion and won a major victory.
The District Court’s pretrial ruling marks an end of a two-year battle between Pierce County and the estate of Michael Bourquin. The county successfully argued that Deputy Helligso was justified in using deadly force in his encounter with Michael Bourquin on the morning of Feb. 1, 2014 in the Parkland/Spanaway area.
In June 2014, Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist concluded the death was justifiable homicide under state law. “Bourquin, who was on drugs and assaulted the officers with mace, posed a serious danger,” said Prosecutor Lindquist. “The deputy protected himself and his fellow officer.”
In a claim filed March 20, 2015 against the county, the estate demanded 20 million dollars in damages, alleging unconstitutional excessive force.
“We vigorously defended against this baseless lawsuit,” said Lindquist. “Our strong stands save the county money in the long run.”
In an opinion dismissing the estate’s claims, Judge Ronald Leighton detailed the events leading up to the shooting that Helligso and his partner, Deputy Chris Olson, faced.
“Michael Bourquin, a suspect wanted on felony warrants, implicated in a murder, and a known associate of a person who had taken a death threat on the two officers here, openly sprayed officers directly in the face with bear pepper spray during a traffic stop,” said Judge Leighton. “As a result, officers were left blinded, defenseless, gasping for breath, and were forced to use deadly force in order to save their lives.”
The court concluded that Bourquin posed an immediate threat of death or serious physical injury to both officers sufficient to justify the use of deadly force. The court also concluded that given the facts of the case, dismissal at the pretrial stage was warranted because “no reasonable juror can conclude otherwise.”
Deputy Prosecutors Michelle Luna-Green and Alicia Burton successfully represented Helligso.

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