The King County Sheriff’s Office has agreed to pay a civil rights case settlement for the death of Tommy Le, 20, who was shot and killed by police in 2017.
On Wednesday, the family’s attorneys announced the sheriff’s office would pay Tommy Le’s estate $5 million in a settlement, which is half of what they initially sought in the 2018 lawsuit, according to KIRO7.
Both King County Sheriff’s Office and the Le family settled the suit a month before the case goes to trial in U.S. District Court.
The county sheriff’s office said in a statement they were willing to proceed with the trial in a court of law.
“Although the parties do not agree on the fundamental facts of this case, we are pleased this settlement will allow everyone to avoid a difficult, and likely painful, trial,” the statement continues. “King County Sheriff’s Deputy Cesar Molina was dismissed from the lawsuit as a named party as a condition of the settlement.”
King County Executive Dow Constantine hopes this settlement will bring peace to Le’s family and the community. He added this tragic event “underscores the need for a thorough review of law enforcement policies and procedures following an officer-involved death.”
“I reformed the inquest process to provide families, law enforcement officers, and community members with greater transparency and accountability,” Constantine said in the statement. “The new inquest will help transform police training and practices to prevent future tragedies. My most recent budget invests in community co-creation of new approaches to public safety. But the inquest process is currently on hold as the Washington State Supreme Court deliberates its future. I stand ready to move forward with inquests so that lawmakers and the public can better understand how these deaths happen, and how they can be prevented.”
Tommy’s father, Sunny Le, said nothing would change even after the settlement.
“There is still pain in our family every day, nothing is going to change,” he said. “I want my son back.”
Jeff Campiche, the family’s attorney, said they feel like the settlement is a statement that the sheriff’s office has “not been truthful to the public,” KING5 reported.
“The settlement of this case is a victory for justice for Tommy Le,” he added. “It’s the truth of what happened.”
Campiche claimed the sheriff’s office collectively “covered up the truth by concealing, omitting and misstating, and even tampering with the evidence” during their investigation.
“It’s no secret there was a coverup, it was so transparent when it was finally revealed,” the family attorney said. “The truth is that Deputy Molina shot and killed an unarmed, 120-pound Asian high school student in the back while he was retreating, and that does not meet the constitutional requirements for the use of deadly force.”
Authorities responded to a call of a man threatening people with a sharp object in Third Avenue South in Burien, Washington, around midnight on June 14, 2017. Le allegedly charged at the responding officers, Deputy Cesar Molina and Master Police Officer Tanner Owens, while carrying a weapon, which prompted them to open fire.
Initial investigation revealed Le was holding a pen and not a knife, as the police report stated.
Even though the family released an autopsy report stating Le was shot in the back, the sheriff’s Use of Force Review Board concluded the fatal shooting was “justified and within department policy.”
Last year, California-based OIR Group conducted an independent review into Le’s murder and discovered “serious gaps” with the sheriff’s investigation.