Tommy Le, 20, was killed after residents of a Burien neighborhood reported a man with a sharp object, possible a knife, was threatening people. The object turned out to be a pen.
The family of a 20-year-old Burien man who was fatally shot by a sheriff’s deputy in June plan to file a federal civil-rights claim seeking at least $20 million against King County, they announced Thursday.
Tommy Le was shot June 13 after residents of a Burien neighborhood reported a man with a sharp object, possibly a knife, was threatening people, the Sheriff’s Office has said. The object turned out to be a pen.
Speaking during a news conference, Jeffrey Campiche, an attorney for Le’s family, said an autopsy revealed Le had no drugs or alcohol in his system when he was shot despite reports that he was behaving bizarrely.
The autopsy also showed Le was shot twice in the back and once in the left wrist, he said.
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Campiche and Le’s family said that Le, an aspiring firefighter, had no history of mental-health problems. Campiche said the deputy who killed Le overreacted after a Taser application to Le’s chest failed to incapacitate him.
Le was shot around midnight after sheriff’s deputies were summoned by several 911 calls about a man making threats in the 13600 block of Third Avenue South in Burien. One homeowner told dispatchers he had fired his handgun into the ground, hoping to scare off the man later identified as Le.
When Le continued to approach, the homeowner fled back inside his house. Le, who was barefoot, then pounded on the door and stabbed it, screaming he was “the Creator,” according to the sheriff’s office.
Three deputies confronted Le, who refused commands to drop “what they thought was a knife,” said department spokeswoman Sgt. Cindi West.
Two deputies fired their Tasers, with one of them hitting Le. But it had no effect, she said.
When Le reportedly moved toward deputies, Deputy Cesar Molina shot him three times. Le died at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
Le’s death came just hours before he was set to graduate from Career Link, an alternative high-school completion program at South Seattle College.
A news release issued by the Sheriff’s Office immediately after the shooting indicated deputies believed Le was holding a sharp object, maybe a knife.
Speaking at a July forum into the shooting, Sheriff John Urquhart said the investigation has shown that Le did have a knife at one point, but no longer had it when he was shot. Witnesses in Le’s house and across the street said they saw Le return to his house down the street and then leave again with a pen before the shooting, Urquhart said.
Investigators found a knife similar to one witnesses described in the house, he said.
The shooting is being investigated by the sheriff’s Major Crimes Unit.
Molina has been with the sheriff’s office for 2½ years and had taken 40 hours of crisis-intervention training. He also worked as a deputy in California for 2½ years, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Le’s family has called for an independent investigation into his death. At the July forum, Urquhart said he agreed and would ask the FBI to take over the investigation.
“Departments should not be investigating their own officer-involved shootings,” he said at the time.
Campiche, the attorney representing Le’s family, said the planned claim — a precursor to a lawsuit — would seek $10 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages.