A lawsuit against a King County Sheriff’s deputy in the 2017 shooting death of 20-year old Tommy Le in Burien has been dismissed, with an out of court settlement awarded to the family for $5 million.
Le’s family and lawyers announced the news at a press conference on Wednesday morning, Mar. 24, 2021.
As we previously reported, in June, 2017, King County Sheriff’s Deputy Cesar Molina shot and killed Le in Burien after the officer mistook a pen in his hand for a knife. Police initially reported that Le was threatening neighbors with a knife before charging towards deputies with a “weapon” in hand.
Police later admitted that Le was shot in the back and was only holding a ballpoint pen, not a knife.
While legal action against the deputy has been dismissed, “King County remains (a) defendant in this lawsuit,” according to court documents.
An outside review of the police investigation released in Sept., 2020 also found numerous “shortcomings” by the King County Sheriff’s Office in the way facts were collected.
The King County Sheriff’s Office released the following statement Wednesday afternoon:
“The King County Sheriff’s Office was ready and willing to try this case in a court of law.
“Although the parties do not agree on the fundamental facts of this case, we are pleased this settlement will allow everyone to avoid a difficult, and likely painful, trial.
“King County Sheriff’s Deputy Cesar Molina was dismissed from the lawsuit as a named party as a condition of the settlement.”
King County Councilmember Joe McDermott released the following statement;
“The painful loss of Tommy’s life cannot be made right, but I hope the conclusion of this particular legal process might allow his family to move toward some peace. Tommy’s killing shed a bright and tragic light on the need for accountability and reform in the King County Sheriff’s Office and how we envision providing safety within our communities. I’ll continue to hold Tommy’s memory close as we move forward with implementing the reform of the Sherriff’s office that King County voters demanded last November.”
Here’s raw footage of the press conference courtesy KING5:
The family of Tommy Le has settled out of court with King County + King County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Cesar Molina for $5 million. @KingCoSheriff Deputy Molina shot 20-year-old Vietnamese American student Tommy Le to death in Burien in 2017. #TommyLe
— CE Bick (@CarolynBick) March 24, 2021
BREAKING: King County has agreed to pay $5 million to settle a civil rights lawsuit filed by the family of 20-year-old Tommy Le, a Vietnamese-American high school student in Burien who was shot to death by a sheriff’s deputy in 2017 while holding a ball point pen.
— Mike Carter (@stimesmcarter) March 24, 2021
In 2017, 20-year-old Burien high-school student Tommy Le was shot and killed by a deputy. He was carrying a pen. Attorney Jeff Campiche says “It’s no secret there was a coverup.”#KomoNews pic.twitter.com/7mcDZDDjSM
— Suzanne Phan (@SuzannePhan) March 24, 2021