Tommy Le, the “bubbly” Vietnamese American kid who was killed by a King County sheriff’s deputy, was apparently shot twice in the back and a third time in the back of his hand, based on the autopsy results released by his family.
According to the family’s lawyer, Jeffery Campiche, the report disproves the Sheriff’s Office account of the incident that led to Le’s death.
“There are no scenarios where you would shoot someone in the back because they are attacking you,” Campiche told the press on Thursday.
Le’s relatives, who attended the press briefing, were in tears as the new details were announced, according to Seattle Weekly.
Based on the initial press release issued by the Sheriff’s Office shortly after the incident, the deputies responded to calls about a man, revealed to be Le, causing a disturbance in the area while carrying a sharp object and screaming that he was “the creator” in the early morning of June 14 in Burien.
When 20-year-old student reportedly refused to obey the officers’ orders to stop, he was fired upon with tasers, which seemed to have had no effect on him as he continued to move toward the two responding deputies.
Deputy Cesar Molina then shot him three times as he was rushing toward deputies with an object in his hand, which was initially thought to be a knife. Le was later proclaimed dead at Harborview Medical Center.
Over a week later, the Sheriff’s Office would later report that Le did not actually have a knife with him when he was fatally shot. He was, in fact, holding a pen.
With the release of the autopsy report, Campiche declared that the official version of the Sheriff’s Office has been debunked: “Tommy was not shot charging police officers with a weapon.”
“The fact that the policeman might be afraid or might be overreacting doesn’t justify the shooting. It has to be objective facts, and if somebody has their back to them while they were shooting them, I don’t know how they’re going to see if they’re holding a knife,” Campiche was quoted by King 5 as saying.
Aside from the autopsy report, Le’s toxicology findings were also revealed in the press conference, showing that Le had no drugs or alcohol in his system. The family also stated that the boy had no history of mental illness and didn’t have a criminal record.
Le’s teachers and schoolmates described him as a “goofy, little guy,” a “bubbly kid”, who was “always smiling.”
The Le family is now planning to file a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Sheriff’s Office and Sheriff John Urquhart. They will be seeking a minimum of $10 million for compensatory damages and another minimum of $10 million for punitive damages.
Meanwhile, the Sheriff’s Office has refused to comment on the case, with a spokesperson explaining only that: “The investigation isn’t complete yet, and the inquest has not yet occurred.”
Campiche stated that Le’s parents are filing the case to “vindicate” the rights that inspired them to move to the U.S. back in 1991.