Lake Stevens attorneys, in court pleadings, described the woman’s lawsuit “as a weird little case about a private tryst gone awry.”
By any measure, former Lake Stevens police Officer Andrew Thor was a cad. For years, he cheated on his wife and lied to his girlfriend, whose name he routinely queried in law-enforcement databases, according to court documents.
When she learned of the searches, the girlfriend, Natalie Brunner, sued Thor and the Lake Stevens Police Department, alleging Thor violated her civil rights and that the department let him do it.
The city’s attorneys, in court pleadings, described the lawsuit “as a weird little case about a private tryst gone awry.”
A federal judge dismissed that 2015 lawsuit this week, finding that a police officer can’t be sued for merely being a scoundrel.
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“Thor’s conduct was deeply troubling,” wrote U.S. District Judge John Coughenour in an order dismissing the claim. “The court appreciates how traumatic this experience must have been for Brunner. However … the legal claims here cannot be maintained.”
Coughenour’s ruling focused on the fact that none of the lies or deceit perpetrated on Brunner by Thor were done in his official capacity as a police officer — “under color of law” — and therefore no civil rights violations occurred.
Accessing her personal information through government databases, without sharing it or improperly using it, does not amount to a violation either, the judge found.
Brunner alleged Thor abused his power as a police officer and violated her liberty, privacy and equal-protection rights, as well as guarantees prohibiting illegal search and seizure or use of excessive force. She also alleged that Lake Stevens police officials should have known about Thor’s bad behavior.
The lawsuit stems from a relationship that began in March 2011 when Thor, who was married, responded to a Craigslist “casual encounters” post by Brunner. Thor, using the name “Drew Kidd,” met her at her father’s house and the two became intimate. He told her he was in the U.S. Special Forces.
According to court documents, over the next 3 ½ years they met several more times for sex at hotels and casinos. During this time, Thor variously told Brunner he was in the Special Forces or the British Special Air Service, or was a CIA assassin. At one point, he allegedly showed her a “book report” that contained her personal information, including copies of her driver’s license, explaining that he needed to gather it for his employer.
“I don’t exist,” he once told her, according to court records.
Thor also “told her about purported exploits in foreign lands including killing people,” which Brunner found threatening after they broke up.
According to documents filed by Thor’s attorneys, “This special forces/secret agent fantasy pervaded their relationship.” Brunner says she believed it.
The charade went on until October 2014, when Brunner came across a military I.D. in the name of Andrew Thor. An internet search turned up a video from the Lake Stevens Police Department featuring the man who had told her he was a trained CIA killer talking about how to prevent home burglaries, according to court pleadings.
Further searches showed he was married with a child.
Brunner went to Lake Stevens police with her complaint, and Thor was suspended after an investigation showed he had accessed secure local and national law-enforcement databases to run Brunner’s name 23 times.
The Police Department opened an investigation. However, Thor resigned from the force before he could be interviewed, according to documents.
Thor’s attorneys said the relationship took place on his off hours and using his personal vehicle.
The Snohomish County Prosecutor’s Office determined that, since Thor apparently had not improperly shared Brunner’s information, no crime had occurred.
The court files indicate Thor surrendered his peace-officer certificate. His attorney, John Kugler, said he no longer works in law enforcement or the public sector.
“He desires to keep his private life private,” he said. “Ongoing publication of his past, nonwork-related relationship with the plaintiff is detrimental to Mr. Thor’s marriage, wife and children.”
Kugler, in an email, said many of Brunner’s allegations are “speculative and untrue,” including claims that he threatened her with a gun, stalked or cyberstalked her, or had her followed by other police officers.
Brunner’s attorney, Lawrence Hildes, said he intends to ask Judge Coughenour to reconsider his order and that he and Brunner — who is now married and using a different name — are contemplating an appeal.