Police

Six Weeks Later, L.A. Sheriff's Department Admits They Killed an Innocent Man in Nighttime SWAT Raid

Donnell Thompson, a 27-year old black man, suffered from mental disabilities. He wasn't armed and had not committed a crime.

|

Gene Blevins/Polaris/Newscom

After six weeks of insisting the man killed in a pre-dawn raid was a suspect in a carjacking, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department this week reversed course and admitted they gunned down an innocent man.

On July 28, the department was using armored vehicles and a SWAT team armed with assault weapons to search a neighborhood in Compton, Calif., for a man who had stolen a car and exchanged gunfire with police officers before going on the run. They found and arrested the suspect, but then received a 911 call from a resident of the neighborhood who reported seeing an unknown man lying in his front yard.

The department responded in force.

When the unknown man didn't respond to verbal commands, deputies set off flash bang grenades and fired rubber bullets at him. When he rose from the ground and allegedly ran towards the deputies, a deputy sitting in the turret of one of the heavily armored cars fired, killing Donnell Thompson.

Thompson, a 27-year old black man, suffered from mental disabilities. He had nothing to do with the carjacking. He wasn't armed and had not committed a crime.

Even so, the Sheriff's Department spent weeks saying they had reason to believe Thompson was a second suspect in the carjacking incident. After an internal investigation and facing pressure from Thompson's family, the department admitted their mistake this week.

A statement issued by the Sheriff's Department on Tuesday said there was "no evidence that Mr. Thompson was in the carjacked vehicle, nor that he was involved in the assault on the deputies."

At a press conference, Capt. Steve Katz called the incident a "terribly devastating event."

According to the Los Angeles Times, the department conducted an internal review of the shooting after Thompson's family protested the shooting at a Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting. His family described him as a "harmless man who had never been in legal trouble," and wanted charges filed against the officer who pulled the trigger, the paper reported.

"I wouldn't treat an animal this bad," his sister Matrice Stanley told the board, according to the AP. "How is this justifiable?"

Brian Dunn, an attorney representing the Thompson family, told the Huffington Post that the Sheriff's Department's response to the incident was inappropriate.

"In a civilian neighborhood, they bring an urban assault vehicle," Dunn said. "The BearCat, it's like a tank. Their response to this situation was so aggressive. Their tactics were so aggressive."

The department says an investigation into the shooting is still ongoing and the officer who killed Thompson—who has not been identified publically—has been reassigned to non-field duty.

Thompson is not the first person to be killed by a misinformed SWAT team or overly aggressive police tactics. Sadly, but without a doubt, he also won't be the last.

Advertisement

NEXT: More Hillary Clinton E-mails, Will Smith Suggests Anti-Trump 'Cleanse', Martin O'Malley Complains About DOJ Balitmore PD Report: P.M. Links

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “assault weapons”

    Really?

    1. I have been trained by the commentariat to the point that I noticed the phrase immediately.

      I’m sure SWAT uses real assault rifles, unless they switch to MP-5s or whatever for the raid.

      1. MP5s are select fire. They qualify.

        1. They’re a carbine/SMG, not an assault rifle.

          1. Being a miniature gamer, and not a gun owner, I’m extremely sensitive to differences between an SMG, Assault Rifle, Semi-Automatic Rifle and Bolt-Action Rifle, as they will impact such things as ROF (stationary vs moving), range, penetration and, above all, point cost.

            1. You know who else was sensitive to range and penetration?…

              1. Every T-72 crew member?

                I love the look of it, but, FFS, putting ammo carousel all around the main body of the tank, so any shell that penetrates armor can set off a catastrophic explosion?

                1. The shells were going to go into the hull anyway – that’s how the Russians (and we, before the M-1) rolled.

                  Plus it allowed them to fit an autoloader, removing a crewmember and get that sweet turret shape reducing overall weight while still maintaining frontal protection.

                  Course, the trade-off for removing that crewmember means the same amount of maintenance being done by 75% of the people and each vehicle has one fewer person to share watches with when laagered.

                  Its kinda funny that the SU, with its surfeit of manpower, its quality control problems, and its ‘quantity has a quality of its own’ philosophy was willing to trust in an autoloader while the US say that the extra man (and being able to put the ammo in its own compartment) is worth the expense.

                  1. Contrary to the stereotype, SU didn’t have the surfeit of manpower, hence autoloader. The WW2 did a huge number on population of Ukraine, Belarus and Russian, and, unlike the US and Western Europe, there was no post-war Baby Boom to make up for it.

                    Hell, by the end of WW2, most of Red Army front-line units were pretty run down and under strength. It’s just that Germans were even more run down, and had a chronic inability to accurately estimate how many troops Soviets actually had, and where they actually were (ever since Barbarossa). With autoloader, they could field 25% more tanks with same population base (in theory).

                    1. unlike the US and Western Europe, there was no post-war Baby Boom to make up for it

                      I don’t know about the SU, but in Communist Hungary there definitely was a post-war Baby Boom (partly driven by a ban on abortion and a childlessness tax between 1950 and 1956).

              2. just as Ernest said I didn’t even know that a stay at home mom able to make $7k in a few weeks on the computer . look at more info >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> http://sha.howdays.com/

    2. Same here, Fus.

      If it was verbatim from another source, it would be one thing (to me). A publication that stands up for 2A rights, and whose people generally know how gun language gets distorted in other media should know better.

      1. This is the publication that calls an M-113 a ‘tank’.

    3. They were weapons and they were used in an assault. And quite likely they had guns that could fairly be called “assault rifles”. I say fair enough.

      1. they were used in an assault

        Oh, you’ll never serve on the jury with that attitude!

        /D.A.

        For what it’s worth, I’ll have to part company with you on this, Zeb. I may be irrational about it, but word play from the press in gun talk really bothers me.

        But, I’ve said my peace, so I’ll let it go.

      2. They were weapons and they were used in an assault. And quite likely they had guns that could fairly be called “assault rifles”. I say fair enough.

        I’m with you here Zeb. Given the larger context of the sentence and article (and the fact that Mr. Boehm isn’t crafting law), the intent isn’t/wasn’t to demonize the weapons as much as the people using them.

        1. No harm. No foul.

          1. if I crack you across the mush with a rifle stock (semi, bolt or rubber band driven) I’ve committed assault and therefore I used an assault rifle to do it…ipso fucking facto.

  2. After an internal investigation and facing pressure from Thompson’s family, the department admitted their mistake this week.

    Slippery slope!

    1. Well, I mean, they admitted a mistake. Actually, you know, changing anything in response or actually holding anyone responsible.. yeah, you shouldn’t hold your breath.

  3. …the officer who killed Thompson?who has not been identified publically?has been reassigned to non-field duty.

    The turret on his desk doesn’t even spin 360 degrees. He’s relegated to gunning down people standing at the copier.

    1. “C’mon, Sarge! Put me back out there! I’m really missing turret time riding a desk…”

  4. Let he who has not gunned down an innocent mentally-disabled person from the turret of an MRAP cast the first stone.

    1. YOU are the reason that Reason should install a Like button!

  5. They found and arrested the suspect, but then received a 911 call from a resident of the neighborhood who reported seeing an unknown man lying in his front yard.

    Even so, the Sheriff’s Department spent weeks saying they had reason to believe Thompson was a second suspect in the carjacking incident.

    Allofasudden, there’s two suspects? Yeah, right.

    Let’s be clear; the corpse to be was lying on the ground, not a threat to anybody whatsoever. So he gets flashbanged and hit with rubber bullets. For lying on the ground.

    Well, at least the killer gets to spend the hot summer months in the air conditioning, right?

    1. And then shoot him dead when he gets up. What did they think his reaction to being attacked with explosives and projectiles would be? Probably something that would give them an excuse to kill him, I guess.

  6. …a resident of the neighborhood who reported seeing an unknown man lying in his front yard.

    He wasn’t armed and had not committed a crime.

    Other than trespassing.

    1. Other than trespassing.

      It varies by state, but trespassing isn’t necessarily a crime unless you are on marked property and/or have been warned off.

      /pedant off.

      1. I’m talking about G*d’s law not man’s law.

      2. I think it starts out as a tort. Only if you won’t leave after being warned off does it escalate to ‘criminal trespassing’ – a misdemeanor and is only a felony for a few specific locations – and I imagine that posting signs would constitute ‘warning off’.

  7. I’m not sure how his being a possible suspect in the carjacking would make this any less terrible. Is the position of the police that it is OK to shoot someone as long as he sort of matches the description of a suspect in a crime that happened sometime in the same day?

    1. He was killed for the same reason the everyone is killed by the cops. Failure to obey. They gave him instructions which he failed to obey. That made them fear for their lives so they opened fire. Same story every time.

      1. Failure to obey.

        And even then I get the feeling that possibly, even probably, been retconned. Pretty hard to explain why the guy in the MRAP pulled a “He’s coming right for us.” self-soiling.

    2. Apparently the way lethal force works for police is that if you’ve in any way, no matter how tenuously been linked to a violent felony you’re fair game.

      Also, if you’ve ever presented the officer with a legitimate reason to escalate to deadly force, no matter what you do afterwards, he doesn’t have to de-escalate.

  8. “In a civilian neighborhood, they bring an urban assault vehicle,” Dunn said. “The BearCat, it’s like a tank. Their response to this situation was so aggressive. Their tactics were so aggressive.”
    Kinda police statey but luckily our public servants were unharmed. Well except the guy in the turret that open fired. He’ll probably have to do 30 days desk duty and maybe get a paid vacation. Damn the luck.

  9. What I want to know is, how would they have handled this call without an MRAP? Would they just call off the search?

  10. There will be no charges, there will be no firing, there will be no repercussions whatsoever. In fact, it’s pretty certain that the pig will never even be identified. The same old shit, they’ll drag their feet in the hopes that eventually, it’ll just kind of fade away, and it will, and we will let it. Then the next time, and the next time, ad infinitum….

    1. I bet that cop is the envy of the department. I’ve listened to drunk cops talk shop at the bar, and they all want an excuse to kill people. It’s why they sign up for the job. This guy is drinking for free every night for at least a month.

  11. Wow. The Valentine’s Day massacre resulted in 7 men being shot dead. Just read an article that NINE people were killed and 10 more wounded in Chicago on Monday.

    1. Huh, I was gonna make a comment about population size but, unless boundaries of Chicago changed since 1929, it had 3.2 million inhabitants then and just shy of 2.7 million today.

      1. it had 3.2 million inhabitants then and just shy of 2.7 million today.

        “All gun violence, I’m sure!”
        /prog

  12. http://www.latimes.com/local/l…..story.html

    Thompson’s relatives described him as a harmless man who had never been in legal trouble. They protested his death at a Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday, invoking the two-year anniversary of Michael Brown’s death at the hands of a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., which set off a national debate about police use of force against African Americans. Thompson was black.

    So Donnell was robbing stores shortly before being shot?

    JFC…

  13. SWAT teams or first responders, the police too often cannot be trusted with lethal weapons such as firearms. Take away their deadly firearms. The training of SWAT teams was sure to result in some ‘trigger happy’ police hiding behind armored clothes and armored machines with weapons designed to easily kill. You can bet that the training was very expensive. Arm them with debilitating type weapons.

    1. “… with weapons designed to easily kill.” “Arm them with debilitating type weapons.”
      You are so reasonably restrained. How about permanently disarming when they phuck up like this. The cop can even chose if he loses his left or right arm. No disability, though.

      Yeah, let’s go back to choke holds and make their murders have a bit more personal touch.

  14. What the Sheriff’s statement didn’t say was, “… and we’re sorry.”

  15. I don’t even get angry any more. Just very sad.

  16. Disband the SWAT teams and forbid all cops to carry firearms.

  17. This is so sad! If BLM wanted any credibility this is who they hold up not repeating “hands up don’t shoot” Muchael brown crap. Cop needs jail, lapd–what the 2nd largest force i assume–needs mental health officers, and Baltimore just needs to burn to the ground (minus the stadium of course). Crappy crappy cops

  18. At a press conference, Capt. Steve Katz called the incident a “terribly devastating event.”

    He was actually talking about the admission of a mistake.

  19. “After consumer outrage and protest, the company LA Cops has gone out of business. On a better note, security companies that have excelled at non violence and effectively managing threats to their consumers have recieved new business from former LA cops customers.”

    Wait a minute…….that can’t happen because the state’s standing army uses force to get funded through taxation (extortion) and if folks didn’t pay that same standing army would be used to jail them and confiscate their things. They also can’t go out of business, no matter the lawsuits as the taxpayers pay for the outcomes of any lawsuits.

    Why hasn’t anyone in the BLM movement brought this up? All I hear is bs about “reform”, etc. which will never solve the problem.

  20. Since when do you approach a person asleep on the ground by shoting ruber bullets at him. If some one did that to me I would go into defensive mode as well. Just because they have a hammer doesn’t mean they need to use it next time just walk up to the guy and pur water on him.

    1. So, water pistols?!
      How dare you Monday morning quarterback this hero in blue when he was acting under a stressful situation with unknown dangers around every corner and behind every blade of grass. Add on top of that a fellow brother in blue had been shot at and just imagine the adrenaline/steroid level while fighting the War on Police (proper noun because it’s official). Now do you unappreciative/anarchist phuckers understand you need war equipment to fight a war. Besides, it’s use it or lose it for the equipment so they have to utilize it whenever possible. Sarc off.

  21. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go to tech tab for work detail.
    +_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+ http://www.factoryofincome.com

  22. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go to tech tab for work detail.
    +_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+……………… http://www.onlinecash9.com

  23. If a single unarmed individual can walk up and credibly threaten people in an MRAP, then we need to look at the design of MRAPs. Seriously, what kind of real danger are you in even if the guy outside has a .45? I’d be more afraid of a guy with 5 gallons of gasoline. I’m reminded of an old saying,” Wolves don’t care what the sheep think”. We should have SWAT guys qualified to take down a single unarmed guy for no obvious reason without employing the weaponry on an armored vehicle, no? I bet the other non SWAT cops think they’re pussies for shooting the guy. Nah, that’s a bit optimistic.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.