A Larimer County Sheriff’s Office deputy who fatally shot a Fort Collins man while deputies were serving the man a court-ordered eviction notice was legally justified in her use of force, according to the 8th Judicial District Attorney’s Office’s review of the investigation.
The district attorney made the determination after reviewing the 8th Judicial District Critical Incident Response Team’s investigation into the deputy’s use of force. That investigation includes body camera footage from the two deputies involved and other reports taken by CIRT investigators. The office shared the decision in a letter published Friday.
The decision letter stated that Cpl. Margaret Johanson was justified in fatally shooting the man, 62-year-old Randy Goens, at the Timber Ridge South mobile home community in Fort Collins “to defend herself and her fellow deputy from the threat” that Goens posed at the time.
Goens had previously been served an eviction order, and Johanson and another deputy went to his residence in the mobile home park on Dec. 8 to remove him from the residence.
Johanson knocked on the door, and when Goens answered she told him they were there for an eviction and asked if he was the only one home. He told them “no,” and then raised a concealed rifle from behind him and pointed it directly at Johanson, according to district attorney’s letter, which includes screenshots from Johanson’s body camera footage showing Goens pointing a rifle out of his front door.
Johanson and the other deputy told Goens to drop the gun three times in the four to five seconds before Johanson fired, all while Johanson was standing a few feet from the tip of the rifle, according to the district attorney’s review of the investigation.
Goens did not drop his gun, and Johanson fired four shots, striking Goens multiple times. Johanson was unable to get out of the line of fire because of fencing around the stairs leading up to Goens’s front door, according to the district attorney’s letter.
Goens was transported to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Investigators later discovered his gun was not loaded when he was shot.
Goens’ family told investigators that he had suffered a work-related accident in July 2022 that kept him from working while he dealt with multiple health issues. Following the shooting, investigators found in Goens’ mobile home a note stating, “I’m sorry but I can’t go on living like this. Please forgive me.”
“It is important to note that there is no way Cpl. Johanson could have surmised that Goens’ rifle was not loaded and capable of causing death or serious bodily injury,” the DA’s opinion letter states. “In fact, tragically, it seems clear that Mr. Goens also knew this — and relied on it — given the note left in the trailer.”
This was the seventh shooting involving Larimer County Sheriff’s Office deputies in 2022.
How CIRT works
The 8th Judicial District Critical Incident Response Team, or CIRT, was formed in 2015 in accordance with a new state law requiring a multiagency team to investigate “an incident involving the discharge of a firearm by a peace officer that resulted in injury or death.”
The team is automatically and immediately activated when a police officer is involved in a shooting. The agency that employs the officer or officers involved in a shooting is responsible for alerting the team.
CIRT can also investigate incidents involving officers that result in serious injury or death, including car crashes, as well as incidents in the Larimer County Jail.
Fort Collins Police Services, Loveland Police Department and the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office take turns being the lead agency for police shooting investigations. Each year, the responsibility rotates to a different agency.
Agencies involved in the investigations include: Windsor Police Department, Timnath Police Department, Johnstown Police Department, Estes Park Police Department, Colorado State University Police Department, Colorado State Patrol and the Larimer County District Attorney’s Office.
An agency cannot investigate itself.
After a CIRT investigation is completed, the report is presented to the district attorney, who decides if any criminal charges will be filed related to the incident.