LOS ANGELES (AP) — A black man fatally shot by a deputy in an armored vehicle last month wasn’t involved with a carjacker who had fired at police, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department acknowledged Tuesday, just before the man’s family said authorities had killed an innocent man.
The department said deputies had encountered 27-year-old Donnell Thompson shortly after a carjacker crashed the stolen vehicle, fled into a Compton neighborhood and was arrested early on July 28.
After a homeowner called 911 about a man lying in his front yard, a responding deputy reported finding Thompson with one hand concealed and what looked like a gun nearby, sheriff’s Capt. Steve Katz said.
Fearing Thompson could be connected to the carjacking, Katz said a full force of deputies responded and that Thompson was unresponsive to repeated commands and a flash-bang device.
After deputies shot Thompson with two rubber bullets, Katz said he pushed up off the ground and charged toward the armored vehicle.
Katz said a deputy in the turret of the vehicle shot Thompson, fearing he had a weapon and was going to run past the armored vehicle and fire on deputies behind it.
Deputies later determined Thompson had been unarmed. Katz said it’s possible he could have been unconscious until being hit with the rubber bullets.
Thompson’s family members say he had diminished mental capacity.
They angrily told the county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that officers overreacted when there was no immediate threat and that Thompson was kind-hearted and soft-spoken.
“I wouldn’t treat an animal this bad,” his sister Matrice Stanley told the board. “How is this justifiable?”
Asked later by reporters if she thought race had played a role in the shooting, Stanley said, “I think it did. It’s always in the news. This is something that becomes common, which is really sad. Yes it is a factor.”
Fatal police shootings of black men have spawned anger and violence around the country, with protesters calling for an overhaul of policing tactics they believe unfairly target minorities in poor neighborhoods.
Katz said he understands why Thompson’s family is outraged and wants answers.
“We share that need for those very same answers,” he said. “It is our hope that we can instill confidence and reassurance in that effort, and the investigation will be thorough and it will be complete.”
Earlier, the Sheriff’s Department issued the statement saying, “there is no evidence that Mr. Thompson was in the carjacked vehicle, nor that he was involved in the assault on the deputies” during the carjacking.
Stanley, 44, a registered nurse from Victorville, said she believes her brother didn’t respond to deputies because he was afraid and didn’t know what to do. She questioned why a deputy in an armored vehicle would need to use deadly force.
“He can’t go through armored cars,” she said, calling for the deputy to be fired.
Antoinette Brown, another sister of Thompson, demanded justice from the supervisors.
“My little brother was innocent,” Brown said. “It hurts me to my heart to just imagine how he was we wrongfully killed that night. I just don’t understand and I want answers.”
The deputy who fired at Thompson, a 20-year veteran, has been reassigned to duties not in the field. His name was not included in the statement.
The department said an administrative review of the case was continuing and when it’s completed will be turned over to the district attorney for review.
AP writer John Antczak contributed to this report.
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