A man arrested but never prosecuted for a gunfight with Bonner County authorities has filed a claim against the county and Sheriff’s Department for assault and false imprisonment.
Ian Higgins, 24, is seeking $250,000 in damages. Higgins was arrested in November along with his brother, Reyhan, 21, at a home north of Sandpoint.
The two were involved in a gunfight with an Idaho State Police officer and three sheriff’s deputies who had gone to the house on an assault and arson call.
During the exchange of gunfire, deputy John Givens was shot in the arm by Reyhan Higgins. Givens returned fire and wounded Reyhan Higgins in the hip.
The Higgins brothers were arrested minutes later as they tried to drive to the hospital.
Bonner County Prosecutor Tevis Hull dropped an assault charge against Ian Higgins and never did file charges against Reyhan Higgins.
Hull blamed officers for prompting the shooting, saying they never properly identified themselves as police officers or used the flashing overhead lights on their police vehicles.
In his claim, Ian Higgins recounted Hull’s findings and said the officers engaged in an “ill-conceived and uncoordinated assault upon the house.”
The claim says that Ian Higgins was shot at, threatened and wrongly arrested and jailed by officers who were improperly trained and used excessive force.
The claim also accuses the Sheriff’s Department of failing to discipline officers involved in the gunfight.
County officials said the officers’ actions were reviewed by a shooting board which found their use of weapons was justified.
“There was a lot of confusion with the whole thing, but I don’t think the county is in a liable position,” said Commissioner Dale Van Stone.
“It’s their right to file a tort claim but at this point I don’t know how the county will respond.”
The claim is being reviewed by the county attorney and the county’s insurance company.
The parents of Ian Higgins, Steve and Barbara, filed a separate claim against the county. They are seeking $161,000.
Steve Higgins arrived near the home after the shooting and was arrested for obstructing an officer. He now claims he was wrongly arrested and jailed and that Sheriff Chip Roos used excessive force while handcuffing him.
Barbara Higgins wants damages for emotional pain and suffering and for fear of reprisal by authorities.
Both claims state that officers knew or should have known before arriving at the house that an assault did not occur.
The person who reported the assault was being evicted from a home owned by the Higgins family. The Higgins brothers were burning some of the property left at the house and had a confrontation early in the day with the renters.
When police arrived without lights or sirens, the brothers thought it was the renters coming back to attack them, according to a report by Prosecutor Hull.
Officers at the scene said a deputy twice yelled that they were from the Sheriff’s Department and the brothers responded with gunshots.
The incident and Hull’s refusal to file charges has caused a rift between the Sheriff’s Department and prosecutor’s office.
More than 30 officers took out a newspaper ad, saying they had no confidence in Hull. Another 30 officers showed up in court to protest Hull’s decision to drop charges against Ian Higgins four days before his scheduled trial.
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