There isn't enough evidence to federally charge a King County sheriff's deputy with civil-rights crimes connected to his fatal shooting of a man on a Renton road near the off-duty deputy's home.

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There isn’t enough evidence to federally charge a King County sheriff’s deputy with civil-rights crimes connected to his fatal shooting of a man on a Renton road near the off-duty deputy’s home.


Officials with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington and the federal Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division announced yesterday that the April 7, 2002, shooting by Deputy Melvin Miller isn’t “a prosecutable violation of federal criminal civil rights statutes,” according to a news release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle.


The shooting occurred after Robert Thomas Sr., 59, his son and his son’s girlfriend got lost on the way to a friend’s house for breakfast. The elder Thomas, who was black, pulled his pickup onto the shoulder in the 14400 block of 196th Avenue Southeast.


A resident spotted the unfamiliar vehicle and called Miller, who lived in the neighborhood. The deputy, who is white, went to investigate after tucking his service pistol into his waistband. Miller told investigators Thomas aimed a gun at him, prompting him to fire. Thomas’ son and son’s girlfriend, who were in the back seat, said they didn’t see the elder Thomas show a gun.


In May 2003, the Seattle chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) met with a Justice Department attorney from Washington, D.C., and U.S. Attorney John McKay, asking for a federal investigation.


“In this case, the government could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the victim’s death was the result of more force than was reasonably necessary,” yesterday’s release says. The Department of Justice has now closed its investigation.


Seattle NAACP President Carl Mack said today that he disagrees with the decision, but respects the way the U.S. Attorney handled the investigation.


While saying he’s “disturbed and disappointed” with outcome, Mack said he’s pleased McKay’s office “reached out to this community.”


“We clearly respect the process that happened,” Mack said.