By Jeff Todd
PARK COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – One year after Corporal Nate Carrigan was killed while serving an eviction notice, a former employee of the Park County Sheriff’s Department sued the county and the sheriff.
Welles Tonjes was a Senior Sargent in February of 2016, a federal lawsuit says he was illegally demoted three ranks before he quit and the cause was the fatal shooting of Carrigan.
Tonjes is suing the Park County Commissioners, Sheriff Fred Wegener and Mark Hancock, who was a Captain at the Sheriff’s office. Wegener and Hancock oversaw the eviction order of Martin Wirth on February 24, 2016.
Court documents say Tonjes had meetings with top officials at the Sheriff’s Department prior to the eviction.
“During those meetings, Sgt. Tonjes emphasized that Mr. Wirth was highly volatile and potentially dangerous. He told them that Sheriff’s Department Officers should under no circumstance attempt to enter the Wirth home,” the complaint says.
Tonjes and Undersheriff Monte Gore were left out of the team that went to Wirth’s Bailey home.
Two days after the fatal shooting that left both Wirth and Carrigan dead, “Undersheriff Gore informed Sgt. Tonjes of the Sheriff’s hostile and inappropriate conduct,” the complaint says.
The suit claims Wegener then decided to part ways with Gore and soon demoted Tonjes without following proper protocol.
“Wegener and Hancock hoped to create the false impression that Sgt. Tonjes was responsible for the tragedy at the Wirth Property,” the complaint says.
This is the second lawsuit claiming Sheriff Wegener and Captain Hancock ordered deputies to enter Wirth’s home, despite previous plans to back off if Wirth retreated.
Tonjes is seeking back pay, and additional compensation from the suit.
Sheriff Wegener has repeatedly told CBS4 he believes it was Wirth’s actions and decisions led to the fatal shootout. Wegener couldn’t be reached for comment.
Jeff Todd joined the CBS4 team in 2011 covering the Western Slope in the Mountain Newsroom. Since 2015 he’s been working across the Front Range in the Denver Headquarters. Follow him on Twitter @CBS4Jeff.