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Family files civil rights lawsuit in Tommy Le shooting

Tommy Le's family and attorneys announce their decision to file a $20 million wrongful death and civil rights violation lawsuit against King County, the King County Sheriff's Office and (former) Sheriff John Urquhart in 2017.
KUOW Photo/Ann Dornfeld
Tommy Le's family and attorneys at a news conference in 2017.

A new federal lawsuit says a King County sheriff’s deputy violated the civil rights of a man he shot to death last June.

Deputies were responding to 911 calls in Burien about a man making threats when they encountered 20-year-old Tommy Le.

Deputy Cesar Molina shot Le in the back. At the time, the Sheriff’s Office said Molina believed Le was armed with a knife. But police found no knife at the scene. 

Jeff Campiche, an attorney for Le’s family, said that’s because Le didn’t have a knife — only a pen.

The suit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court alleges Molina was poorly trained. It also alleges Le’s Vietnamese heritage was a factor in the shooting.

The suit names Molina, King County, county Executive Dow Constantine and former Sheriff John Urquhart.

A King County inquest scheduled in the Le shooting has been put on hold while a committee appointed by Constantine examines whether there should be changes to the process.