Dear Sheriff Johanknecht,
We are writing to submit a citizen complaint regarding the 8/22/18 report and conclusion reached by the Use of Force Review Board in the 6/14/17 death by bullets to the back of Tommy Le by King County Sheriff Caesar Molina in the City of Burien.
From the time of Tommy Le’s death, the Sheriff’s office has at best obfuscated the circumstances of his death, and at worst, misled the public about how it transpired. The Sheriff’s office initially reported that Tommy Le was shot while charging Deputies with a knife. Only after further inquiry by reporters did it transpire that Tommy Le was unarmed and shot in the back while holding a pen, not a knife.
The Sheriff’s office seems to have gone to some lengths to further obfuscate this situation, by indicating that after Tommy Le was killed, law enforcement personnel went to his lodgings and found knives. There is no evidence that any of the knives were used by Tommy Le to threaten others. It would be unusual to go to almost any lodging and not find any knives. Showing photos of the knives to witnesses who already believed he had a knife rather than a pen does not produce convincing evidence that he had a knife at some point rather than a pen; he was shot and killed while holding a pen.
The report indicates that even if it had been known that Tommy Le had only a pen, rather than a knife, the outcome may have been the same, as a pen could be wielded as an improvised weapon. We do not find this argument to be one worthy of exonerating those responsible for Tommy’s death; the skill necessary to use a pen as a deadly weapon against alert, trained, and armed law enforcement professionals outnumbering the slight 120-pound 5’4″ young man would exceed an ordinary lay person’s skills; Tommy Le was clearly not in his right mind, and not behaving as a trained assassin.
The effort to control the narrative to defend the Deputies and blame Tommy Le for his own death continues. Nowhere in the report is it indicated that Tommy Le died from bullets to the back. We see no reason why this report which would customarily be issued following the inquest, was released, if not as an attempt to continue to control a misleading and unjust narrative.
We request a review and analysis of the processes, policies, and conclusions referenced in this report by the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight.
Diane Narasaki and Tony Lee
Co-Chairs, Asian Pacific Islander Coalition of King County
Executive Director, Asian Counseling and Referral Service
Founder and Director, Vietnamese Community Leadership Institute
Executive Director, Casa Latina
Executive Director, OneAmerica
Director, Public Defender Association
Executive Director, El Centro de la Raza
Founder and Chair, Not This Time!
Jay Westwind Wolf Hollingsworth, Mohegan
Chair, John T. Williams Organizing Committee
Rev. Harriett Walden
Founder, Mothers for Police Accountability
Executive Director, Vietnamese Friendship Association
Tet in Seattle