DENVER (CBS4)– A federal judge in Denver calls the 2016 line of duty death of Corporal Nate Carrigan “unquestionably tragic” and “terrible and unnecessary.” She simultaneously has dismissed a lawsuit filed by Carrigan’s family against Park County, former Park County Sheriff Fred Wegener and former Park County Captain Mark Hancock.

Nate Carrigan (credit: CBS)

Senior Judge Marcia Krieger dismissed all claims of the Carrigan family in an order dated March 29.

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“It’s obviously disappointing,” said Reid Elkus, an attorney who represented the Carrigan family in the case. ”We knew this was going to be an uphill climb.”

On Feb. 24, 2016, members of the Park County Sheriff’s Office planned an eviction of Martin Wirth, who had stopped making payments on his home. Wirth, 58, was known to be armed, dangerous and to harbor anti- government and anti- law enforcement feelings. An activist, Wirth had also threatened to shoot the first officer who approached his home.

Martin Wirth (credit: CBS)

When deputies approached his home that day, Wirth spoke to them briefly but then retreated inside and deputies soon followed. Wirth opened fire inside the home, shooting and killing Carrigan, 35, and wounding two other deputies. Wirth was also killed in the gunfight. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation said it appeared at least 72 rounds had been fired during the gun battle.

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Carrigan’s family filed suit claiming that the sheriff and his department created the danger by not retreating when Wirth went inside his home, and that deputies were inadequately trained.

(credit: CBS)

In an earlier interview with CBS4, Carrigan’s father, John, said “There wasn’t a damn thing done right. My grandson is seven years old and he would know not to follow someone back in the house. They should have just waited him out.”

“The events of February 24, 2016 were unquestionably tragic,” wrote Krieger, in a 22-page order. “To be sure, Captain Hancock’s decision was ill- advised, and perhaps even irresponsible and stupid… 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 Kolby Martin and Travis 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.”

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Park County Sheriff Fred Wegener in 2016 (credit: CBS)

Krieger concluded that “The Constitution does not provide the Plaintiffs a remedy.”
Elkus said they are now checking to see if an appeal is possible. CBS4 sent an email and left voicemail messages for an attorney who represented Park County and the former sheriff, but the attorney did not immediately respond.

Brian Maass