The long-awaited trial of a Grand Traverse County sheriff’s deputy who fatally shot an Interlochen man during a 2007 all-night standoff is scheduled to begin next month. And county taxpayers may be on the hook for several million dollars if the ruling favors the plaintiffs.
After an 11-hour siege at the Interlochen home of 49-year-old Craig Carlson, deputy Charles Jetter shot and killed Carlson on Nov. 10, 2007. The trial, set to begin Oct. 21 before Judge Paul L. Maloney in U.S. District Court in Kalamazoo, seeks an award of more than $3 million for the estate of Carlson.
“I’m confident he did the right thing and so is my client,” says attorney Christopher Cooke, who is representing Jetter and the county. “He’s the kind of guy who deserves support...This has been a long difficult process, but my client is prepared to tell the story and he feels he’ll be vindicated and can end this chapter.”
Jetter, an FBI-trained sniper, has maintained that he fired the fatal shot as Carlson leaned out a window and had his finger on the trigger of an assault rifle pointed at officers.
Carlson family attorney Grant Parsons disputes that notion, saying that evidence shows Carlson was not pointing the weapon at anyone.
“This is a real sad deal,” Parsons says. “Mr. Carlson’s mother died recently waiting for this to go to trial. She was at the scene of the shooting. She heard the shot and she knew that it killed her son. It was very horrible.”
During the standoff, which involved dozens of police from multiple agencies, officers fired tear gas into the home on two occasions.
“Police rocketed his house 24 times, breaking every window in the place and breaking the siding,” continues Parsons. “The last words out of Mr. Carlson’s mouth were ‘I’m gonna sue you (for the damage).’”
As Jetter's employer, Grand Traverse County will have to cover any award should the Carlson family prevail in the lawsuit. “The county’s insurance company and the Carlson family came to a settlement, but the county vetoed it,” Parsons claims. He expects the trial last about two weeks.
The trial was delayed due to scheduling conflicts and a number of procedural issues. In 2008, special prosecutor Brian Donnelly ruled that Jetter was legally justified in shooting Carlson and that there was no reason to file criminal charges against Jetter, who still serves as a GT County deputy.
Also in 2008, the Police Officers Association of Michigan honored Jetter as a POAM Officer of the Year for his role in the shooting.
The lawsuit originally named former Sheriff Scott Fewins and TC Police Sgt. Steve Drzewiecki, who commanded the response team that surrounded Carlson’s home during the siege. They were dismissed from the suit by a federal judge in 2011.