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Former SPD officer wins workers compensation case connected to 2016 shooting

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — A former Salisbury Police officer who was cleared for his role in the November 2016 shooting death of Ferguson Laurent has won his workers’ compensation lawsuit against the city.

Salisbury Police Officer Karl Boehm was among the officers at 625 E. Lafayette St. on Nov. 3, 2016, who were attempting to serve a no-knock search warrant after a three-month investigation led them to the home. Such a warrant allows the unannounced entry of law enforcement officers. The State Bureau of Investigations in 2017 said Laurent, who was in the home, fired at Boehm, who fired back. Laurent died shortly after being transported to a hospital.

Boehm was cleared by both District Attorney Brandy Cook and the SBI.

On behalf of Boehm, attorney David Shelby of Salisbury-based Shelby, Pethel and Hudson, P.A. filed a workers’ compensation case against the city. Shelby successfully argued that Boehm’s neurological and cardiovascular disorders are a direct result of the November 2016 shooting, according to the North Carolina Industrial Commission’s public database.

When contacted by the Post, Shelby’s call disconnected and he couldn’t otherwise be reached before deadline. An attempted call back went quickly to voicemail.

The city was represented by Andrew Avram of Cranfill, Sumner & Hartzog, LLP in Charlotte.

Boehm joined the Salisbury Police as a patrol officer in 2008, according to the lawsuit. He joined the Special Response Team in July 2010, which involves higher risk assessments and high-risk search warrants. Boehm left the department in August 2018.

Prior to joining the department, Boehm served in the U.S. Navy from 2002-07.

Following a hearing and testimonies delivered on Oct. 23, 2019, in Statesville, the ruling issued by North Carolina Industrial Commission Deputy Commissioner Amanda Bruce on Sept. 23, 2020, was that Boehm “sustained a compensable injury by accident arising out of and in the course of his employment with the department on Nov. 3, 2016.”

“The North Carolina Court of Appeals has held that when an injury arises out of and in the course of employment, every natural consequence that flows from the injury arises out of the employment, unless it is the result of an independent intervening cause attributable to claimant’s own intentional conduct,” the lawsuit states. “Furthermore, to establish sufficient causation, there must be expert testimony that goes beyond speculation and meets ‘the reasonable degree of medical certainty standard necessary to establish a causal link.’”
Bruce’s ruling calls for the city to provide compensation for all medical treatments, both incurred or to be incurred, that are reasonably necessary to effect a cure, provide relief or lessen Boehm’s anxiety and vasovagal syncope conditions along with his vocational rehabilitation services. Vasovagal syncope occurs upon a sudden drop in heart rate and blood pressure, leading to fainting. It’s often in reaction to a stressful trigger.

No costs were assessed with the ruling. Mayor Karen Alexander told the Post the council has not received an update on details of the settlement since its closed session meeting in April when the case was discussed. No action was taken upon conclusion of that meeting.

Following the April closed session meeting, City Attorney Graham Corriher told the Post that terms of the settlement once reached are not considered a matter of public record, citing North Carolina General Statute 97-92.

The suit’s findings also state Boehm was physically attacked by a suspect amidst an officer-involved shooting in December 2010. The suspect died and the subsequent internal and SBI investigation determined the shooting was justified.

A total of five doctors testified prior to the ruling. Though one of Boehm’s doctors said he deferred to a general expert for evaluation of Boehm’s employment and VA records regarding the cause of his fainting episode, he ultimately believed the condition was an advancement of Boehm’s anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress symptoms.

Another doctor testified he believed Boehm’s anxiety and adjustment disorders were caused by the November 2016 shooting and aftermath.

One of Boehm’s doctors also recommended he not return to the Salisbury Police Department or as an officer for another department given his current state. He recommended vocational rehabilitation.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify David Shelby’s call disconnected during an attempted interview and that it went quickly to voicemail in an attempted call back. 

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