The 20-year-old Vietnamese American student was fatally shot by a King County sheriff’s deputy last month
The family of a 20-year-old Vietnamese American student, Tommy Le, who was shot last month by a King County Sheriff’s deputy, have spoken out.
Le was shot by the police officer on June 13, hours before his graduation ceremony. The Seattle Times reports that the student was reading Faust and The Count of Monte Christo at the time of his death.
As an avid chess player and soon-to-be high school graduate, Le was far from a violent criminal. Having attended Career Link, an alternative high-school completion program at South Seattle College, Le was set for a bright future.
The Stranger reports that Le’s mother, Dieu Ho, described her son as a good kid who was liked by his teachers. Le’s older brother, Quoc Nguyen, went suit shopping with him two weeks before his death. Le had planned to wear the suit at Nguyen’s upcoming wedding.
“It’s unfortunate we had to use that suit for his funeral,” Ngyuen said. “He was a kind, sweet kid and he had plans for the future. He wanted to make a positive change in this world.”
Tommy’s father Hoai Le said, “There is no pain like losing my son.”
150 people attended a forum to hear from a panel of public officials including King County Sheriff John Urquhart, County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg and County Office of Law Enforcement Oversight Director Deborah Jacobs regarding the incident.
“Tommy was beloved by the large Le extended Vietnamese-American family, none of which have been arrested for or convicted of a crime,” family members said reading from a prepared statement at the panel.
Urquhart said he agreed with the statement and will ask the FBI to investigate. “Departments should not be investigating their own officer-involved shootings,” he said, adding that he would push lawmakers to require Washington State Patrol to investigate all officer-involved shootings.
He also added that he would lobby for all officers to wear body cameras.
Sheriff deputies claimed they thought Le was carrying a knife when he was shot. The sheriff’s office then revealed he was holding a pen.
Urquhart said the investigation showed Le did have a knife at one point but not when he was shot. Witnesses saw Le return to his house from the street where he was shot before leaving again with a pen.
Three deputies were summoned to several 911 calls regarding a man with a sharp object who was reportedly threatening people in the 13600 block of Third Avenue South. One homeowner fired his handgun to try to scare off the man, who was later identified as Le.
Le reportedly stabbed at the man’s door screaming he was “the Creator,” according to the sheriff’s office. Two of the deputies fired tasers at Le who refused to drop the item that they thought was a knife. After the taser had no effect, the sheriff’s deputy identified as Cesar Molina, shot him three times.
Le’s parents claim he did not have any weapons and had never been in a fight before.
Organisers of the forum formed a list of questions including why Le’s family was not informed of his death until one day later.
As the sheriff discussed the process, some of Le’s relatives left the room crying.