Kan. family sues Highway Patrol over death

SALINA, Kan. (AP) - Three Kansas Highway Patrol troopers face a civil lawsuit in the 2011 fatal shooting of former drug task force informant in Ottawa County.

The wrongful death lawsuit, filed earlier this month in Ottawa County District Court, accuses Trooper Justin Rohr of unreasonable seizure and use of excessive force in the death of 56-year-old Larry Dean Smith on Oct. 12, 2011. Lt. John Riedel, former trooper Michael Weigel and the state of Kansas are also named in the lawsuit, The Salina Journal reported.

Plaintiffs include Smith's estate, administrators Tonya Marie Tyler and Martin Henry Smith, and "Heirs at Law" Delilah Marie Smith, Paul James Smith, Angela Kay Smith and Erica Anne Lemieux. They're seeking more than $225,000 in damages.

Riedel said Friday he was not aware that anyone had been served with a copy of the lawsuit. Rohr and Weigel could not be reached Friday.

Ottawa County Attorney Betty Mick said in 2012 Rohr was justified in shooting Smith. A Kansas Bureau of Investigation also found that Smith fired first during a confrontation in a heavily wooded area near Delphos.

The petition says employees at the Delphos Co-op saw a man on the railroad tracks and the man eventually turned and ran.

The elevator manager reported the matter to the Ottawa County Sheriff's Office, and later the KHP was called. Troopers Rohr, Riedel and Weigel responded.

Witnesses reported hearing three shots, with the first sounding like a shotgun and the second two being from a high-powered rifle and "rapidly fired." The petition alleges that Rohr's weapon had a 30-round magazine, and when the Kansas Bureau of Investigation checked, the magazine contained 27 unspent bullets. A single-shot .410 shotgun, with one spent shell in the chamber, was found in the area where Smith was shot.

According to the petition, Smith also told his former wife, Carla J. Smith, the night before his death that he had been working with the drug task force in Saline County, developing cases against drug dealers in the area.

Lt. Jim Norton, commander of the I-135/I-70 Drug Task Force, based in Salina, confirmed Friday that Larry D. Smith had been involved in the task force as a "cooperating individual, but had done no work for the task force," Norton said.

His lack of activity as an informant caused him to be "deactivated" on Oct. 9, 2011, three days before his death.

"He was basically fired and investigators believe he was possibly still involved in drugs," Norton said.

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