Family of Washington Man Killed by Police Sniper is Awarded $15 million

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He grabbed his mother’s wrist and took her phone when she tried to call 911. They were having a family argument.

Within hours, 30-year-old Leonard Thomas was dead, killed by a police sniper’s bullet on a May night in 2013. In this freeway-divided Tacoma suburb, the unarmed man was shot on his porch while holding his 4-year-old son in his arms.

Police said the minor dispute had turned into a standoff that could only be settled with a militaristic show of force and lethal action.

But on Friday, a federal court jury in Seattle unanimously disagreed, handing down one of the most costly legal verdicts against police officers in Washington state history.

Having heard testimony from an officer’s after-incident report boasting that the sniper’s bullet, fired from 90 yards away, was a “frickin’ million-dollar shot,” the jury decided to award Thomas’ family $15 million.

The seven-member panel awarded the amount to the family in a civil rights lawsuit as a way of saying local police had overreacted to a minor domestic dispute. At least 27 officers from the Pierce County Metro SWAT team and two armored vehicles were sent to the scene after Thomas — who was bipolar, had been drinking and was despondent over a friend’s death — refused to leave his house.

Witnesses during the trial described a battleground setting: One armored transport was driven across a neighbor’s yard, through a fence, and parked off the back patio of the Thomas home in the town of Fife. The other vehicle, a BearCat personnel carrier, took position at the front of the house.

A four-hour late-night standoff followed, during which Thomas, who spoke defiantly if not belligerently to police, made no threats and repeatedly said he was unarmed, according to court testimony. Police eventually made an offer to Thomas — if he handed over the boy to a relative, they’d leave. (Police planned to arrest him at a later, safer time, testimony showed.)

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Filming Cops
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Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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  • dilbert

    Sweet!

  • Wendy Colby

    Another murder.”Give us the boy and nobody gets hurt” BS If you are having a fight with a loved one before you call police decide if you want them dead or not cuz that’s what’s coming.

    • crazytrain2

      I don’t get why you, or anyone else says things like this. Police handle thousands of domestic calls every day, and very rarely does something like this happen. In those thousands of domestic calls every day, almost all are resolved peacefully, even when the result is an arrest. Occasionally, there is force involved if the arrestee resists, but it is usually mild force being utilized. These calls can get ugly very quickly, and sometimes, if given the opportunity, you will have to deal with an armed suspect, which obviously complicates matters.

      But my point is that very rarely, the suspect is seriously wounded or killed. So suggesting that calling the police equates killing that person is a ridiculously false notion.

      • Liz O’neill

        you obviously haven’t done your homework, according to statistics, police REGULARLY kill the person who has called 911 for help, don’t take my word for it, look it up, or ask the family of the austrailian lady murdered just 2 day ago after calling the cops about a prowler, she went to the drivers window to speak to the cop and he shot her dead before she got a chance to speak. the lady was in her pyjamas and was I million% innocent of any wrong doing.

        • crazytrain2

          I am not saying that it does not happen. But to say it “regularly” happens is ridiculous. As I said, US cops respond to thousands of domestic violence calls per day. I could not find any exact numbers in that, but I did a few searches for various cities, and Orlando for example, has over 3000 calls per year, which breaks down to around 8 calls per day. However, NYC has 700 domestic violence calls per day. I stopped after that search because it is easy to justify my “thousands per day” estimate. So if what you are alleging is correct, would police not be shooting a large number of people per day? But in the entire country, using an average of 1,200 per year, US police kill about 3 people per day, give or take. So your claim that “police regularly kill the person calling 911” is shot to shit, so to say.

  • crazytrain2

    Million dollar shot,eh? More like 15 million dollar shot. Why would they take the shot? Why would they take the shot while he still held the child? Just stupid.

  • Nancy Castillo

    Never call the cops on people you love!

  • Zeconte

    Well, thanks for allowing pop-ups to make this a site I refuse to visit anymore.