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Authorities admit Compton deputy killed innocent Black man

AMANDA LEE MYERS | 8/23/2016, 10:30 a.m.
The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department acknowledged Aug. 9 that a deputy shot and killed an unarmed Black man who they ...
Family members of Donnell Thompson, 27, who was fatally shot by Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies in Compton, California, speak to reporters outside the County Hall of Administration, Aug. 9. Authorities had recently acknowledged that Thompson was not the person they were tracking. Nick Ut

LOS ANGELES (AP) – The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department acknowledged Aug. 9 that a deputy shot and killed an unarmed Black man who they said was mistakenly identified as a suspect in a carjacking and confirmed he was not involved, again bringing into question the appropriateness of a police agency’s use of deadly force.

Donnell Thompson, 27, was shot twice at close range with an M4 carbine rifle – with one gunshot wound in the upper back – by a deputy riding in the turret of an armored vehicle, one of two dispatched as officers searched for carjacking suspects in Compton.

Police said the shooting occurred after Thompson ignored their commands and charged at them.

Hours before Thompson’s family planned a news conference, the department announced its investigation found “no evidence” Thompson was involved in the carjacking.

The finding provided little solace to the family, which believes the department and its officers overreacted after deputies were fired on during the chase, and that race was a factor.

“It’s always in the news,” said Thompson’s sister, Matrice Stanley, referring to police shootings of Blacks. “This is something that becomes common, which is really sad. Yes it is a factor.”

She and other relatives attended a Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting to draw attention to their brother’s death. She described him as having a diminished mental capacity, kind-hearted, soft-spoken and someone who “would not have harmed a flea.”

“I wouldn’t treat an animal this bad,” Stanley yelled at board members.

Sheriff’s Capt. Steve Katz said he understands why Thompson’s family is outraged and wants answers.

“We share that need for those very same answers,” he said. “It is our hope that we can instill confidence and reassurance in that effort, and the investigation will be thorough and it will be complete. We’re running this into the ground. No stone will be unturned.”

Guilty until proven innocent

The events that led to Thompson’s death began unfolding around 2:30 a.m. July 28 when deputies stopped a car and determined it was stolen. The suspect fled, plowing into a chain-link fence and driving through elementary school grounds as police pursued.

Shots were exchanged, and the car crashed. Deputies searched for a suspect, and about 2 1/2 hours later located a man hiding in a home.

Around the same time, a homeowner called 911 about a man lying in his small front yard. Katz said the man fit the general description of the man deputies reported seeing running from the vehicle: a Black man between 20 and 30 years old wearing dark clothing.

A responding deputy reported finding Thompson lying on the ground with one hand concealed and what looked like a gun nearby, Katz said. Two armored cars were summoned from the home where the other suspect was arrested and were stationed on both sides of Thompson, Katz said.

Thompson was unresponsive to repeated commands and a flash-bang device failed to generate a response from him. After deputies shot Thompson with two rubber bullets, Katz said he pushed up off the ground and charged toward the armored vehicle.