The federal government will pay almost $3.5 million to Cheryl Dietzmann and her children in a settlement announced by Dietzmann’s attorneys Friday.
Dietzmann and her two children filed a federal tort claim in 2008 against U.S. Marshals and Homer Police for their actions in a March 1, 2006, shooting at the Homer Airport that left Jason Anderson, the boy’s father, dead and Jason Anderson II, his son, severely injured.
The Homer Police and city of Homer are not part of the federal settlement. The city of Homer and Homer Police have appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Robert Bryan denying them immunity. The tort claim against the city has not gone to trial and a trial is on hold pending an appellate court decision.
While about 100 members of a Homer youth and adult choir group were at the airport waiting to board outbound planes, Marshals and police opened fired on Anderson while he and his children, the boy and his sister, Darla Anderson, were in a Jeep at the airport parking lot. The girl was not injured when Marshals and police attempted to arrest the father.
In a statement released in 2008, the family’s Anchorage attorneys, Phillip Weidner, Marion Kelly and Pam Sullivan, claimed the boy’s injuries were “the result of the negligent and culpable conduct of the U.S. Marshals, and the Homer Police officers working with them, regarding the botched attempt to apprehend the fugitive, Jason Anderson Sr.”
Seattle attorney Timothy Kent Ford, a civil rights expert, assisted the Anchorage attorneys and Dietzmann.
The former Alaska Medical Examiner, Dr. Franc Fallico, concluded in 2006 that Anderson died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Fallico said Anderson senior shot his son in the face and that the boy's injury was a contact gunshot wound and the bullet entered his face near his left cheek.
Dietzmann and her attorneys disputed that conclusion and allege the boy was caught in a crossfire.
Jason Anderson II suffered severe brain injuries and remains in 24-hour care at a treatment home in Duluth, Minn., Weidner said.
“Counsel for the plaintiffs commend the federal government and the U.S. Marshal Service for their acceptance of the share of the responsibility for this tragedy and their agreement to an appropriate partial settlement,” Weidner said in a press release.
U.S. District Court Judge Robert Bryan last November had ruled that U.S. Marshals and Homer Police did not have immunity. Following that ruling, the federal government negotiated a settlement. The settlement was approved by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Alaska, the U.S. Marshal Service, the individual marshals and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Washington, D.C.
Alaska State Troopers also had been involved in the investigation into the apprehension of Anderson Sr., a fugitive wanted on federal drug dealing charges. They were on the way to the airport when the shooting occurred, but not directly involved in the shooting. Troopers had been ordered not to approach Anderson Sr. unless they were sure his children were not with him.
At the request of U.S. Marshals and Homer Police, the troopers did an independent investigation of the shooting. In February 2008, after reviewing the Alaska State Trooper report, U.S. Attorney Jeffery Sullivan, Seattle, announced that he would not file federal charges against any law enforcement officers involved.
“There is no question that the events of March 1, 2006, were a tragedy, but it was a tragedy of Jason Anderson's own making. It was Jason Anderson who shot his son, fired at officers, and then killed himself,” Sullivan said in a 2008 press release. “None of us know what the outcome might have been, had they allowed Jason Anderson to drive out of that parking lot. Anderson was a ticking time bomb, who could have injured or killed more innocent people in his efforts to avoid apprehension.”
Weidner said 95 percent of the net proceeds of the federal settlement will go to a trust fund for Anderson II’s care. The rest will go to Dietzmann and her daughter.
Michael Armstrong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.