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Family of slain Park County deputy files federal lawsuit over shootout

DENVER — The family of a Park County sheriff’s deputy who was killed in a shootout with a law enforcement protester in February has filed a lawsuit in federal court, saying commanders were negligent in making decisions.

RELATED: Carrigan lawsuit

The lawsuit by the family of Cpl. Nate Carrigan was filed in U.S. District Court in Denver on Wednesday on behalf of his parents and deputy Kolby Martin, who was injured in the Feb. 24 shootout.

Park County Sheriff Fred Wegener and Capt. Mark Hancock were named as defendants. The lawsuit says the two should have known about the threat posed by Martin Wirth and that a SWAT should have been called in to evict him.

“Deputies Martin and Carrigan were shot by Martin Wirth, an individual known by the defendants to have a history of violent behavior with aggressive and threatening tendencies towards the sheriff deputies of Park County,” according to the lawsuit.

“Despite that knowledge, however, the defendants ignored their own training, and national standards, in dealing with overt threats made to law enforcement by Mr. Wirth.”

Carrigan, Martin, Hancock and four others from the sheriff’s office went to Wirth’s secluded Iris Drive home to serve an eviction notice.

Wirth had previously boasted that anyone who tried to evict him could expect “a fight at the OK Corral.”

Minutes after the deputies arrived, Wirth opened fire with a high-caliber rifle, killing Carrigan, and injuring Martin and Hancock. Wirth, an anti-law enforcement and political activist, was killed.

“The actions of the defendants were not just a lapse in judgement or honest mistake,” according to the lawsuit. “Rather, those actions shock the conscience and exposed deputies Martin and Carrigan to dangers that should have been entirely preventable.”

The lawsuit seeks damages for physical injury, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment for life and other pain and suffering. It also requests “all economic losses allowed by law.”

Carrigan was a 13-year veteran with the sheriff’s office, and also was involved with Platte Canyon High School as an assistant coach for the football team and head coach of the baseball team.