Videos Released by the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office Depicts Fatal Struggle at Washoe Jail

“It was just dumbfounding to me,” his mother, Karen Thompson, of Bakersfield, Calif., said in an interview with the Reno Gazette-Journal. “I don’t know why they didn’t tell us sooner.”

Sheriff’s spokesman Bob Harmon said “efforts were made to notify Mr. Thompson’s next of kin from the time he was hospitalized.” He provided no other details.

The way in which deputies responded to Thompson, how quickly they used force, how long they kept him on the ground and the language they used during the fight is under internal investigation and has raised questions about the deputies’ training in de-escalation techniques.

Sheriff Chuck Allen even took the unusual step of criticizing the deputies’ handling of the struggle before the internal investigation was complete after he reviewed the videos obtained by the Reno Gazette-Journal through a public records request.

“I believe anyone who watches this video will understand why I was concerned about the handling of this incident and why I immediately called for an outside investigation,” he said in a written statement.

“I further, and firmly, believe that some of the actions shown do not reflect the standards of the men and women who work for the Sheriff’s Office. Nor are they in keeping with my often-expressed expectation that employees from this office will always treat the public we serve with fairness, equality and respect.”

Allen and his command staff declined to answer further questions about which specific actions by the deputies were troubling, adding that they would say more when the internal investigation is complete. Sparks police concluded an independent investigation into Thompson’s death in February and found no criminal wrongdoing by the sheriff’s office.

The video of Thompson’s death was requested by the Reno Gazette-Journal as part of a year-long examination of a sharp increase of in-custody deaths at the Washoe County Jail, which began just after Allen took office. That examination found the death rate has risen to nearly five times the national average since Allen took office.

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