Searching for an armed carjacker who had fired at them more than two hours earlier, Los Angeles sheriff’s deputies came across an unarmed mentally ill man and killed him instead.
Donnell Thompson, 27, had nothing to do with the carjacking, but deputies said he matched the description of one of the carjackers, so they didn’t want to take any chances.
After all, they said, Thompson could have placed the community in danger had they not killed him.
The revelation that Thompson was not the suspect they were looking for comes nearly two weeks after they killed him on July 28.
While they acknowledge their mistake, they have not gone as far as to offer an actual apology, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“Knowing what we know now, do we wish it hadn’t happened?” said Los Angeles Sheriff’s Captain Steven Katz. “It speaks for itself.”
The admittance came hours before Thompson’s family called for the Los Angeles County supervisors to hold them accountable.
On Wednesday, the family plans to file a federal lawsuit against the sheriff’s department.
Thompson had no gun. No criminal record. And no idea what was going on when deputies found him laying in a yard at 5 a.m. and began attacking him flash grenades and rubber bullets, thinking he was the same suspect who had eluded them two-and-a-half hours earlier during a traffic stop of a stolen car.
According to the Los Angeles Times:
Deputies came across Thompson during the search when a neighbor reported finding a man lying in his yard, then called 911 around 5 a.m., the Sheriff’s Department said in a statement.
Sheriff’s homicide Capt. Steven Katz said deputies from the department’s Special Enforcement Bureau, which handles dangerous tactical situations, tried to use several less-lethal force options against Thompson after numerous attempts to communicate with him failed. Thompson was lying with his left hand under his head and his right hand under his mid-section, Katz said.
Deputies at the scene were concerned Thompson might have had a gun next to him or been involved in the carjacking, and they relayed that to the tactical officers, Sheriff’s homicide Lt. John Corina said. A flashbang was deployed, but had no effect, according to Katz, who said the tactical officers then fired three rubber bullets at Thompson.
Two of those rounds struck Thompson, who then stood up, looked around, and ran toward an armored sheriff’s vehicle. A deputy in that vehicle fired two rounds from an M4 rifle, striking Thompson twice in the upper torso.
“His concern was if he gets past me, then he’s in the community, can get into somebody’s house, then we have a barricaded suspect,” Katz said of the deputy’s decision to open fire.
Last month, Los Angeles sheriff’s deputies tried to justify the shooting by saying Thompson had “charged” at deputies, making them fear for their lives.
They also said he “refused to obey Special Enforcement Bureau commands to surrender.”
But it appears as if the man known as “Lil’ Bo’ Peep” who had the mentality of a 16-year-old was simply disoriented and confused at having been attacked by paramilitary deputies.
Deputies say they arrested another man, Robert Alexander, 24, whom they believe was also in the stolen car that sped away from them during a traffic stop while shooting at them.