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Carlton County reaches $6.2M settlement with man who was shot by deputies

The man suffered a spinal cord injury that resulted in quadriplegia.

Carlton County has agreed to settle a federal lawsuit filed by a man who was shot by law enforcement, paralyzing him, last year. 

Shawn Michael Olthoff, 35, of Moose Lake, filed a $35 million lawsuit in April, claiming sheriff's deputies violated his civil liberties when Carlton County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Jason Warnygora shot him while they executed a search warrant at his home, the Duluth News Tribune reported.

At about 4:30 p.m. on July 29, 2019, the Carlton County Consolidated Emergency Response Team went to Olthoff's home at the Hillside Terraces Mobile Home Park in Moose Lake to serve a warrant, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said last year. Law enforcement used a flashbang and entered the home. At one point, Warnygora, whose been with the sheriff's office for more than 14 years, shot Olthoff. 

Olthoff, who had recently been released from prison, suffered a spinal cord injury that resulted in quadriplegia, the county said in a news release. Months after the shooting, the Carlton County attorney ruled Warnygora's actions were justified because he believed he and other officers were facing a deadly threat. 

"The shooting took place under rapidly occurring and dynamic circumstances in which the shooting officer reasonably believed officers were taking fire from an individual who had reportedly pointed a firearm at a law enforcement officer just two days prior," the release said. 

Olthoff filed a federal lawsuit in April, seeking $25 million for physical injuries and pain and suffering, as well as $10 million in punitive damages against Warnygora personally, the Duluth News Tribune said. The lawsuit alleged Warnygora admitted he had two beers before receiving a page to respond to the scene.

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Carlton County on Wednesday said it agreed to a settlement of all claims Olthoff asserted against the county in connection to the shooting, a news release says. The settlement totals $6.2 million, with the county paying $4.2 million and the Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust paying $2 million – a portion of the money will be placed into a trust for Olthoff's future medical needs. 

The county says this settlement, which does not assume fault by any of the named parties, resolves all civil litigation related to the shooting and allows everyone involved to avoid what could have been a years-long litigation process, as well as exposing taxpayers to a potential verdict that could be "significantly higher than the settlement." 

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