Tommy Le's family and attorneys announce their decision to file a $20 million wrongful death and civil rights violation lawsuit against King County, the King County Sheriff's Office and Sheriff John Urquhart.
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Tommy Le's family and attorneys announce their decision to file a $20 million wrongful death and civil rights violation lawsuit against King County, the King County Sheriff's Office and Sheriff John Urquhart.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Ann Dornfeld

Family of Burien man shot by police sues King County, sheriff

The family of a 20-year-old Burien man shot dead by police in June is suing King County, the county Sheriff's Office and Sheriff John Urquhart alleging wrongful death and civil rights violations.

They're seeking $20 million in damages.

At a news conference Thursday, Tommy Le's family wept as one of their attorneys, Jeffery Campiche, said that the King County Medical Examiner's report shows Le died from two shots to the back. He was also shot in the back of one hand.

Campiche said that conflicts with police reports that Le was shot in self-defense after advancing on two deputies with a pen.

“If [Le] was charging the police officer who shot him, he would have been shot in the chest," Campiche said. "If he was charging other people, and the policeman discharged six bullets, three of which hit him, the other bullets would’ve hit the people he was charging. He wasn’t charging anybody."

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Through a Vietnamese interpreter, Le’s mother, Dieu Ho, said learning her son was shot in the back makes her grief "even more painful."

The Sheriff’s Office said that before Le was shot, 911 calls reported that he was trying to stab strangers with a knife, yelling, "I am the killer," and "I am the creator."

Police found no knife at the scene but say they found a pen. There were no drugs in Le’s body at his autopsy, and his family says he had no history of mental illness.

His aunt, Xuyen Le, says the family, all Vietnamese refugees, suspects racial bias.

"The deputy who shot Tommy was not Asian. Tommy’s Asian. If Tommy was a different color, would that deputy have fired the shot?" Le asked.

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King County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Cindi West issued a written statement in lieu of an interview, which said her office expects that there will be an inquest "to reveal all aspects of the case."

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