In yet another alleged incident of excessive police force, a high school student from South Seattle College was shot dead hours before his graduation.
His crime? Holding a pen, apparently.
After receiving several 911 calls around midnight, about a man with a sharp object, maybe a knife, threatening people in the 13600 block of Third Avenue South in Burien, three deputies reached the location.
A homeowner told the police he fired a gun into the ground to scare away the threatening man, later identified as Tommy Le. The homeowner rushed back in his home after Le didn’t stop and continued to approach him. It had initially been reported that Le was threatening people with a knife.
According to the King County Sheriff’s Office, the 20-year-old pounded on the door and then stabbed it while screaming to the homeowner that he was “the creator.”
Seattle police tried to stop Le and ordered him to drop “what they thought was a knife,” but he refused, sheriff’s spokeswoman Sgt. Cindi West said.
That was when the police officers decided to use force against the boy by tasering him. When Le was not subdued, two of the responding officers shot him.
Le later succumbed to the gun shots at the Harborview Medical Center.
A week later the police revealed what the officers initially thought was a knife in Le’s hand was actually a pen.
Le’s teachers defined him as a “goofy, little guy,” who was “always smiling.”
“He’s a bubbly kid,” said fellow graduate Nafisa Mohamednur, who believes the authorities might have had the wrong person. “He’s an easy person to talk to about anything.”
“I’m so angry,” Sunny Le said, adding that his son, who was just about 100 pounds in weight, was just holding a pen when he was shot by a deputy. “I want to know what happened to my son.”
“It was a high point for him,” said one of Le’s teachers Curt. “He was bouncing off the walls in a good way,” he recalled, mentioning how Le was doing well in his studies, and had received a B on his final exam in modern history, earning enough credits to graduate.
To Peterson, this travesty made no sense. “In a school that works entirely with dropouts, we get interesting kids,” he said. “I could tell you 100 people I would have imagined this happening to before him … If we had a discipline file on Tommy it would be completely empty. He was the sweetest kid in the world. He didn’t have an aggressive bone in his body.”
The shooting is still under investigation by the sheriff’s Major Crimes Unit.
Banner/thumbnail credit: Reuters