The Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office is denying allegations of excessive use of force in a 2018 shooting that hospitalized a man whose friend called 911 fearing he was suicidal.
Deputies Brendan Trujillo and Tyler Sennett used reasonable force when they fired four shots at Travis Tolan while he stood inside his front entryway on Jan. 21, 2018, the county said in its response to the lawsuit. Tolan sued in January and the county responded in late April.
Both deputies had been advised that Tolan was suicidal, drinking and had a firearm, and both deputies saw the firearm upon arriving to the call, the county notes.
Trujillo saw Tolan raise the gun but did not have enough time to order him to drop it, the county said. Trujillo fired, and Sennett then drew and fired his gun in an effort to protect himself and his partner, not knowing at the time who had shot first, the response states.
Tolan was hit once, in the abdomen, and was hospitalized afterward. He did not fire his handgun.
Tolan said in filings that he was unaware a friend had called 911 on his behalf to request a welfare check. It was dark outside and the deputies did not announce themselves before or while knocking. They did not use lights or sirens on their patrol cars.
Tolan's lawsuit claimed the Yellowstone County Sheriff's Office has shown a pattern of excessive force and of encouraging or tolerating a “code of silence” among officers, but it did not cite specific incidents. Both deputies, as well as Sheriff Mike Linder, his office, and the county, were named as defendants.
"After reviewing the lawsuit filed in the Tolan matter, Yellowstone County believes U.S. District Judge Susan Watters should find no negligence by officers, rights violation or excessive use of force in the matter," Melissa Williams, the county's chief civil litigation attorney, wrote in an email. "Under the circumstances, officers used reasonable force against Tolan.”
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