King County Sheriff refuses to resign despite councilmember’s demand

Mar 29, 2021, 5:13 PM | Updated: Mar 30, 2021, 5:24 am
Tommy Le...
Messages written by friends and family remembering Tommy Le. (KIRO Radio/Hanna Scott)
(KIRO Radio/Hanna Scott)

King County Councilmember Joe McDermott is demanding that King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknect resign after she sent an internal email to her staff and deputies in support of the deputy who shot 20-year-old Tommy Le. She tells the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH that she will not be stepping down.

Rantz: Councilmember uses Tommy Le death to bash police — he should resign

Le, a 20-year-old Vietnamese-American student, was killed after being shot twice in 2017. Deputies were first called when neighbors reported seeing Le with a sharp object threatening people, calling himself “the creator.” It was later revealed that Le was disoriented from LSD.

Today, the King County Sheriff’s Department maintains that they did everything by the book. The officer involved had been cleared of any wrongdoing. Last week, however, the King County Prosecutor’s Office settled for $5 million with the Le family who had brought a suit against the county.

In her email, Sheriff Johanknect acknowledged that there are a lot of reasons they may end up settling, including that emotion can get in the way of facts. Despite the push from councilmember McDermott, she says she’s not going to resign.

“I’m going to fulfill my term that I was elected to,” she said.

Jason asked Johanknect for her take on McDermott’s argument that she was dismissive of the Le family’s plight and that the implication is that her deputies are racist.

“Well, let me start with the last thing first,” she replied. “So this was a federal lawsuit brought by the family and, unlike many of the cases we’re seeing across the country that bring national attention in the media, this case rose out of multiple 911 calls for service.”

“A citizen reporting being approached and threatened with a knife, a person approaching him … was later identified as Mr. Le, and the narrative in the lawsuit that there was no racial bias component to it,” she added. “Although the plaintiff originally claims that the event was racially selected by law enforcement, they didn’t respond to the county’s motion to dismiss the claim.”

The trial court concluded, the sheriff explained, that the motion to dismiss was granted, and such claims are dismissed with prejudice, and that those claims lack merit.

“I will also remind everyone that’s listening and in conversation, these are horrible events,” Johanknect said. “They’re horrible for families of the decedent. They’re horrible for law enforcement and members of the department who have to use deadly force.”

Johanknect also says she reached out directly to McDermott after seeing his call for her to resign.

“I called his phone and left him a message to say, ‘Hey, it would have been nice to get a phone call from you first because I could have pointed you and … provided the ability for you to listen to the independent neighbor residents that live in your district as well.’ And their statements of alarm and concern to the point where one went in, got his handgun, and fired a warning shot before the cops even arrived.”

“And when those officers, deputies arrived on the scene, it was chaotic,” she added.

In a short window of time, Johanknect says the deputies had to determine who everyone was, and try to figure out who the residents were that were the complainants.

“Then all of a sudden we’ve got, within a short period, Tommy Le coming back to the scene,” she added. “And I know folks are upset that I haven’t talked in more detail, but in government, we don’t talk until there’s a lawsuit settlement. That’s the hard part for law enforcement, right? We can’t come out right away and speak about things because there’s so many events that occurred to include employee rights, and investigations, and internal reviews, and independent investigations and so on.”

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3 – 6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here 

Jason Rantz on AM 770 KTTH
  • listen to jason rantzTune in to AM 770 KTTH weekdays at 3-6pm toThe Jason Rantz Show.

Jason Rantz Show

Jason Rantz

tacoma, officers, tacoma police, manny ellis, Urquhart...
Jason Rantz

Rantz: Police staffing crisis in Tacoma is nearly as bad as in Seattle, morale ‘decimated’

The Tacoma Police Department is dramatically understaffed as crime continues to surge across the city. Police officers are now sounding the alarms.
1 day ago
Jason Rantz

Rantz: Inslee firing thousands isn’t about health – it’s about forced vaccinations

Governor Jay Inslee's COVID-19 vaccine mandate isn't about public health. It's about power and forced vaccinations. 
2 days ago
KTTH staff

Pierce County Sheriff Troyer says he knew charges were ‘coming since day one’

Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer joins the Jason Rantz Show to react to two misdemeanor charges against him from the attorney general's office.
2 days ago
Jason Rantz

Rantz: State AG charges Pierce County Sheriff with 2 misdemeanors after ‘unusual’ move

Attorney General Bob Ferguson's office is readying misdemeanor charges against Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer. The filing could come as early as Tuesday.
3 days ago
police, consent decree...
Jason Rantz

Rantz: Seattle mayor downplays crisis, falsely says only 24 officers didn’t turn in vaccine paperwork

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan told reporters on Monday that "only about two dozen officers have not put in their [vaccine] paperwork" ahead of the midnight deadline.
3 days ago
unvaccinated officers Seattle...
KTTH staff

Seattle mayor: ‘About two dozen’ SPD officers have yet to submit proof of vaccination

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and interim Chief Adrian Diaz both submitted final pleas to unvaccinated officers over the weekend. 
3 days ago

Sponsored Articles


Medicare open enrollment for 2022 starts Oct. 15 and SHIBA can help!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]

How to Have a Stress-Free Real Estate Experience

The real estate industry has adapted and sellers are taking full advantage of new real estate models. One of which is Every Door Real Estate.
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
Marysville Police Department

Police Opportunities in a Growing, Supportive Washington Community

Marysville PD is looking for both lateral and entry level officers. Begin or continue your career in law enforcement for a growing, supportive community.

Small, Minority-Owned Businesses in King County and Pierce County Can Now Apply For $10,000 Relief Grants Through Comcast RISE

Businesses in King County and Pierce County can apply beginning on October 1, 2021, at www.ComcastRISE.com for a chance to receive a $10,000 relief grant.
King County Sheriff refuses to resign despite councilmember’s demand