Charleena Lyles, Tommy Le + 4

Split portrait ringed by names of 6 people from Washington state injured or killed by law enforcement

On June 13, 2017, 20-year-old Tommy Le, died in Burien, WA. The avid reader was just hours away from his high school graduation when he was killed by police officers who thought that the ball-point pen that he held in his hand was a knife. Tommy Le was shot twice in the back and once in the back of the hand.

In 2018, King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) Use of Force Review Board found the shooting justified. The same year, Le’s family filed a civil rights lawsuit. In 2020, an independent review by the OIR group identified multiple problems in KCSO’s internal investigation. In 2021, King County settled Le’s case for $5M.

Mores links to news about Tommy Le’s case at Campiche Andrews Horne PLLC (campichelaw.com)

5 days after Tommy Le was killed, Charleena Lyles, a 30-year-old pregnant mother of 4, was shot by Seattle police officers. On June 18, 2017, Lyles called the police to report a burglary at her home and then allegedly confronted responding officers with a knife.  Lyles, who had known mental health issues, was killed in front of her children. Lyles’ family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in 2017, which was settled by the City of Seattle for $3.5M in 2021.

In 2022, a King County Coroner’s inquest found Lyle’s shooting to be justified. The inquest recordings can be found on King County’s website: Inquest 517IQ9301 – King County

6 days after Charleena Lyles was shot in Seattle, 20-year-old student Giovonn Joseph-McDade was killed in Kent, WA. The unarmed Green River College student was shot by Kent police on June 24, 2017, after being pursued by officers for an alleged traffic violation.

In December 2017, a King County inquest found the use of force justified. In 2020, Joseph-McDade’s parents filed a civil rights lawsuit. The City of Kent settled the lawsuit for $4.4M in 2021.

On May 24, 2013,  30-year-old Leonard Thomas was struggling with the death of a close friend when he called his mother Annalesa Thomas to pick up his four-year-old son from his home in Fife, WA. After Annalesa Thomas arrived, she got into an argument with her son, who was bipolar and off his medications.  

Annalesa Thomas called the police, not expecting them to respond with a SWAT team for a domestic dispute that was at most a misdemeanor assault. Concerned with the escalation, Leonard’s father Frederick Thomas tried to enter the house to talk to his son but was arrested and jailed instead. His arrest was later found to be unnecessary.

An unarmed Leonard Thomas was killed by a sniper. In 2017, a federal jury awarded the Thomas family $15M.

On April 6, 2012, Lashonn White, who was deaf since birth, contacted Tacoma police by video phone to report a person assaulting her in her home. When she went out to meet police as instructed,  she was immediately tasered by responding officers, who wrongly assumed that she was the attacker. White fell to the ground. A local news investigative team documented injuries to White’s cheek, chin, ribs, neck and arms.

One of the responding officers claimed that he held his hand up to tell White to stop moving towards them, but a neighbor who witnessed the incident contradicted his account. According to the neighbor, the police officer did not sign for White to stop.  Police records show that responding officers were made aware that Lashonn White was deaf before responding to the call.  Neighbors also told the officers that White was deaf.

White spent 60 hours in jail. Her repeated requests for an ASL interpreter were ignored in violation of state law regarding the appointment of ASL interpreters for deaf suspects.  Eventually a city prosecutor reviewed her case and declined to press charges.

Lashonn White brought a lawsuit against Tacoma police and Pierce County. In 2014, a federal jury agreed that her 4th Amendment Rights were violated when she was arrested without possible cause but decided to award her only $1.  A Pierce County prosecutor implied that White’s lawsuit was “frivolous and harassing.”

On August 30, 2010, John T. Williams, a woodcarver, walked past a police car in Seattle while holding a pocketknife and a piece of wood in his hands. The police officer came out of his car with his gun drawn and told Williams three times to put his knife down.  When the hearing-impaired Williams failed to respond in less than 5 seconds, he was shot and killed.  

In February 2011, the Seattle Police Department released a firearms review board report finding the shooting unjustified. King County prosecutors found the shooting “troubling” but did not find the evidence to file criminal charges against the shooter. because of a state law that required proof that a police officer acted with “malice” during the use of deadly force.

In August 2011, the City of Seattle settled with Williams’ family for $1.5 million. In 2018, Initiative 940 passed, removing the “malice” clause from state law.