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$15 million awarded to family of unarmed man killed by SWAT sniper in Fife

SEATTLE (AP) — A federal jury in Seattle has awarded nearly $15 million to the family of an unarmed black man shot and killed by police in front of his 9-year-old son in Fife on May 23, 2013,  finding police had no reason to use deadly force.

The Seattle Times reported Friday (https://goo.gl/fHFgKc ) the award includes $3 million in punitive damages against SWAT commander Mike Zaro during the 2013 standoff; another $1.5 million in punitive damages against Lakewood Officer Michael Wiley, who shot the family dog; and $2 million in punitive damages against Lakewood Sgt. Brian Markert, the sniper who shot Leonard Thomas.

Thomas was shot outside his home when he grabbed for his son.

Officers’ attorneys argued Thomas used his son as a bargaining chip and that Markert had no choice but to shoot.

Attorneys for the family said Thomas was about to hand the child over to his grandmother. And they said the show of force by police was unwarranted for a misdemeanor, domestic-violence offense. Two armored vehicles and at least 27 officers responded, including the Pierce Metro SWAT team

The Seattle Times said the award is one of the largest ever in a police use-of-force and wrongful death lawsuit in the state’s history.