Tommy Le, 20, was shot and killed when he charged at deputies in Burien around midnight on June 13. The King County Sheriff’s Office initially said he was armed with what was believed to be a knife.
A 20-year-old man, fatally shot by a sheriff’s deputy last week after he reportedly stabbed at a Burien homeowner’s door and charged deputies with what was believed to be a knife, was actually carrying a pen, the King County Sheriff’s Office said Friday.
The sheriff’s office originally reported that Tommy Le had a sharp object and advanced on two deputies around midnight on June 13. However, sheriff’s spokeswoman Sgt. Cindi West said Le was holding a pen.
West said the department won’t release a photo of the pen. Deputies aren’t equipped with dashboard or body cameras, she said.
Le’s death was the second deadly police shooting in King County in the past two weeks. Two Seattle police officers shot and killed Charleena Lyles, 30, on Sunday after they say she threatened them with two knives in her apartment when they responded to an alleged burglary.
Lyles’ death has sparked community outrage while Le’s death has largely gone unnoticed.
Little is known about Le, except that he lived nearby and had no criminal history, said West.
Most Read Local Stories
- Coronavirus daily news updates, March 31: What to know today about COVID-19 in the Seattle area, Washington state and the nation
- Hospitalizations for novel coronavirus-like illness declined last week in Washington, offering a glimmer of hope
- Coronavirus daily news updates, April 1: What to know today about COVID-19 in the Seattle area, Washington state and the nation
- Flood of coronavirus data overwhelms Washington state's disease-reporting system, leading to lag in data
- Washington state attorney general warns 5 businesses to stop coronavirus price-gouging of sanitizer, masks on Amazon
Linh Thai, director of Seattle’s Vietnamese Community Leadership Institute, told the Seattle Weekly that the Vietnamese-American community is dealing with a range of emotions.
“I think the community is struggling with two narratives. On the one hand, it’s a fellow Vietnamese-American person, a member of the community, and that them being shot dead by anyone regardless of whether it is police is difficult for the community to grapple with,” Thai told the Seattle Weekly, which first reported that Le was carrying a pen when he was killed. “It’s impacting everyone in that sense.
“On the other hand, the community also has a tradition of respecting the law. … We trust the police. They’ll tell us what happened when they’re ready to tell us.”
The Burien incident started when a friend of a homeowner in the 13600 block of Third Avenue South reported someone was chasing him with a knife and yelling. The homeowner went outside and thought he saw a man holding a “knife or some sort of sharp object in his hand,” according to a sheriff’s news release issued after the shooting.
The homeowner fired his handgun into the ground, hoping to scare the man, the sheriff’s office said. But the man approached him and he fled back inside his house.
West said the man then pounded on the door and stabbed it, while screaming he was “the Creator.”
Deputies responded to several 911 calls reporting a gunshot. When two deputies arrived, several neighbors pointed him out at the corner of 128th Street and Third Avenue South.
“Citizens yelled ‘there he is’ as he was coming back,” West said Friday. “The officers went to talk with him and he started charging at them with what they thought was a knife. The deputies ordered him repeatedly to put it down.”
Both deputies fired their Tasers, with one deputy hitting Le. But that didn’t stop Le, who was refusing deputies’ commands, West said.
Deputy Cesar Molina shot Le three times, she said. One of the deputies performed first aid and called medics. Le was taken to Harborview Medical Center, where he died.
Le carried no identification.
West said toxicology reports are pending from the King County Medical Examiner’s Office.
She said the sheriff’s office didn’t send out a second news release clarifying the initial account because she was on vacation and when she returned there had been no further inquiries.
Molina has been with the sheriff’s office for two-and-a-half years and had taken 40 hours of hour crisis-intervention training. Molina also worked as a deputy in California for two-and-a-half years, West added.
The city of Burien contracts with the sheriff’s office for police services.
Molina is on administrative leave while a criminal investigation and an administrative review continue, West said.