Sheriff questioned over deputy’s fatal shooting of Burien man carrying a pen

SEATTLE — Seattle area residents and family members of Tommy Le demanded answers from King County officials during a public forum about his fatal shooting by a deputy in June.

King County Sheriff John Urquhart, County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg and County Office of Law Enforcement Oversight Director Deborah Jacobs were among those who attended the forum Wednesday evening at the Asian Counseling and Referral Service in Seattle.

The 20-year-old Le was fatally shot in Burien June 13 while deputies were responding to reports that Le was threatening people with a knife. Authorities say deputies confronted Le, who refused commands to drop what they thought was a knife. One of the deputies opened fire, killing Le. Over a week later, the sheriff’s office reported Le had a pen, not a knife.

Urquhart said he would ask the FBI to take over the investigation, as Le’s family has called for. He also said he would be asking for the Washington State Patrol to take over officer-involved shootings for every agency, saying it’s a matter of community trust.

“Police departments should not be investigating their own officer-involved shootings. That includes the King County Sheriff’s Office and Seattle Police Department,” said Urquhart.

During Wednesday night’s forum, members of Le’s family spoke about the 20-year-old they lost.

“There’s no pain like losing my son. There’s no pain like losing a piece of my heart,” said Sunny Le, Tommy’s father, through an interpreter. “I want to know why my son had (done) nothing to hurt the deputy and was shot."

Family members testified to the good nature of Tommy; an attorney for the family said the young man was “pleasant, always smiling,” and that he didn’t have a “criminal history, not even a traffic violation.”

It was all presented as evidence as to why deputies should not have shot Le.

“We know, we believe, Tommy had a knife,” said Urquhart, when questioned. “However, Tommy did not have a knife when he was shot … We believe he went back to the house, came back with a pen in his hand.”

Urquhart said all the evidence will come out during the inquest into Le’s death, but still had reservations over whether the evidence would be accepted.

“No one will believe the sheriff’s investigation,” he said. “The truth will come out in the inquest.”

During the forum, Urquhart also called for body cameras for his deputies, a tool he said that could give the public their confidence back.

“We should have body cameras, every police officer in the country should have body cameras," he said.