Crime

Family’s suit claiming excessive force in fatal shooting dismissed

The United States District Courthouse in Tacoma is seen in a 2014 file photo. District Judge Ronald Leighton dismissed a lawsuit against Pierce County and sheriff’s Deputy Chad Helligso regarding the fatal shooting of Michael Lee Borquin in February 2014.
The United States District Courthouse in Tacoma is seen in a 2014 file photo. District Judge Ronald Leighton dismissed a lawsuit against Pierce County and sheriff’s Deputy Chad Helligso regarding the fatal shooting of Michael Lee Borquin in February 2014. Staff file, 2014

A federal judge recently dismissed a lawsuit against Pierce County and a sheriff’s deputy who fatally shot a man in 2014.

Deputy Chad Helligso fatally shot Michael Lee Borquin, 21, during a Feb. 2, 2014, traffic stop in Spanaway in which Borquin pepper-sprayed him and another deputy.

Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist cleared Helligso of wrongdoing in that shooting in June of that year, saying Borquin’s assault with pepper spray put him and his partner in danger.

Borquin’s family sued in Pierce County Superior Court, saying Helligso used excessive force in shooting him seven times, and that his children suffered as a result of his death. The case was moved to United States District Court on Feb. 22, 2016. It was dismissed in May, and the deadline for the family to appeal passed this week.

Borquin was in a pickup near 175th Street South and Pacific Avenue with two other people when Helligso pulled them over. Borquin had a warrant for his arrest at the time, including charges of methamphetamine possession, identity theft and other crimes.

When Helligso went to arrest Borquin, he fought back and then pepper-sprayed the deputy, according to the Sheriff’s Department. That was when Helligso fired his pistol.

Lindquist, in clearing Helligso, noted that Pierce County medical examiners found methamphetamine and amphetamine in Borquin’s system during an autopsy.

U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton dismissed the case before it reached trial, saying Borquin posed an immediate threat of death or serious injury to the deputies at the time of the shooting.

“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,” Leighton said, according to a Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office news release. “As a result, officers were left blinded, defenseless, gasping for breath, and were forced to use deadly force in order to save their lives.”

Helligso has also been involved in at least two other fatal officer-involved shootings while a Pierce County deputy. In October 2011, he fatally shot Aaron Michael Westby, 39, in Tacoma during an investigation into a possibly stolen vehicle. Helligso was also one of five deputies who shot and killed Justin Baker, 36, in Graham in August 2016 when Baker charged at them with a chain saw.

Helligso was cleared of wrongdoing by Pierce County prosecutors in both of those fatal shootings.

Kenny Ocker: 253-597-8627, @KennyOcker

  Comments