Gingras, Thomsen & Wachs partner Mark Thomsen recently reached a $2.35 million settlement with Wood County Sheriff Deputy Nathan Dean and the county’s insurer on behalf of Logan Johnsrud and his family. Johnsrud, a 32-year-old father of one, was fatally shot by Deputy Dean during a welfare check in 2019.
One of Johnsrud’s family members had called for help when they believed him to be suicidal. That call ended with Deputy Dean firing three shots, one which killed Johnsrud, one that hit the family member and one that hit his partner Deputy Cory Leigh.
“We have to do better in Wisconsin in terms of how we handle individuals in mental distress,” Thomsen said.
As a result of the incident, Thomsen filed a civil lawsuit against both Deputy Dean and Wood County claiming that Dean used excessive force and deprived Johnsrud’s family of his company.
According to court records, after the deputies arrived at the home to check on Johnsrud, Dean contacted a crisis worker to discuss how to help Johnsrud with his mental health issues. The worker asked to speak to Johnsrud, who had told the deputies he was not suicidal.
But Dean approached Johnsrud so Johnsrud ran into the home and locked the door with his family member already in the house. Dean ran around the front of the home while Leigh broke down the back door, according to court documents.
Johnsrud had grabbed a large knife from the kitchen, so the family member jumped in to restrain him and keep him from hurting himself. The complaint filed by Thomsen in federal court stated that Johnsrud’s family member had Johnsrud in his grasp so that he could not hurt himself or anyone else in the home.
After Leigh kicked in the door, he was in the kitchen with Johnsrud and was going for his taser to help save Johnsrud.
However, when Dean came back to enter the home, he fired three shots killing Johnsrud.
According to a report completed in 2019 by the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation, Johnsrud began approaching Dean while raising the knife. The Wood County District Attorney’s Office went through the Division of Criminal Investigation report and determined there was no basis to file criminal charges in the shooting.
As part of the settlement, neither the county nor Deputy Dean admitted liability in the incident.
“Logan Johnsrud didn’t threaten anybody but himself,” Thomsen said. “His family member and Deputy Leigh were desperate to help him.”
Mark Thomsen and the rest of our Gingras, Thomsen & Wachs team are grateful to honor the life of Logan Johnsrud and hope people continue talking about how to better help individuals with mental illness. The Wood County Sheriff’s Office has made significant steps to improve their handling of people with mental illness in the community.