Tommy Le family sues King County for officer-involved shooting

Jan 16, 2018, 4:24 PM | Updated: 4:38 pm

Tommy Le, King County Sheriff's Office shooting...

The family of Tommy Le is suing King County officials following the fatal shooting of their family member. (Hanna Scott, KIRO Radio)

(Hanna Scott, KIRO Radio)

A lawsuit was filed Tuesday by the family of Tommy Le who was shot and killed by a King County Sheriff’s deputy last summer.

“The reason the Le family has filed this lawsuit is that they want to bring out the truth of what happened and they want justice for Tommy,” said Jeff Campiche, the family’s attorney.

RELATED: Police shooting inquests put on hold

The family of Tommy Le, a 20-year-old Vietnamese-American student, has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the King County Sheriff’s Office. Le was expected to graduate from high school on June 14, 2017, but he was shot and killed by a deputy in Burien that same day. The deputy claims that Le lunged at him with a knife. But that knife turned out to be a pen. To further complicate that story is the fact Le was shot twice in the back.

“It’s hard to be shot in the back if you are lunging at the police officer,” Campiche said.

The lawsuit states that Le was 5’4″ tall, weighed 120 pounds, and had never been arrested for a crime in the past. The lawsuit notes that all three deputies present at the time of the shooting were much larger than Le. Two of the deputies attempted to use a stun gun on him while the third fired a gun.

Lawyers for the family say deputies were being racially selective and may not have shot if Le had been white. They also argue that sheriff’s deputies did not have proper training to de-escalate the situation and use less-than-lethal methods of force.

“There is a type of racial selective use-of-deadly force in this country, and it is clear that far less white people are shot by the police,” Campiche said. “You ask yourself: Would the police have shot a kid in Magnolia — a white kid in Magnolia under these circumstances? Probably not.”

Attorneys for the Le family also question why it took weeks before the department admitted Le only had a pen and had been shot in the back. The suit names the deputy involved in the shooting, former Sheriff John Urquhart and County Executive Dow Constantine. King County’s prosecutor is not commenting at this time.

Lawyers for the family say they’ve reached out to the sheriff’s office and county executive for answers, but those requests have gone unanswered.

An inquest into Le’s shooting was put on hold this month, along with four other deadly force cases, including: Isaiah Obet, Damarius D. Butts, Eugene D. Nelson, and Charleena Lyles. County Executive Constantine halted inquests to allow a reform committee more time to come up with possible changes to the process.

MyNorthwest contributed to this article.

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Tommy Le family sues King County for officer-involved shooting