The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department announced Tuesday that a man shot and killed by deputies during a July hunt for a carjacker was not actually involved in the crime at all.
A deputy shot and killed Donnell Thompson, 27, while searching Compton for carjacking suspect Robert Alexander. Authorities continued to maintain that Thompson was a suspect in the carjacking up until yesterday's announcement.
Family members described Thompson to the Los Angeles Times as a gentle person who was called by the nickname "Little Bo Peep." He was a Lakers fan and was attending classes for the mentally disabled at El Camino College’s Compton Center.
“You had to be this close to hear him," Thompson's cousin Larmar Avila told the Times. “He’s soft-spoken. He was gentle. What was the threat?”
According to the LASD timeline, a deputy originally found Thompson lying on the lawn of a residence in the area being searched for the suspect and suspected he might be the carjacker. Thompson allegedly failed to not respond to instructions to get up or to show his hands. SWAT deputies arrived and attempted to move him using flash bang grenades and foam bullets.
After being struck with the foam bullets, Thompson reportedly got on his feet and began to run toward a sheriff's department armored vehicle, reportedly with his hand in his waistband. It was at this point that a deputy opened fire, killing Thompson.
None of the deputies were wearing body cameras at the time of Thompson's death.
The sheriff's office is continuing its investigation into Thompson's death, but Ed Obayashi, a legal adviser to several California law enforcement agencies, told the Times that Thompson's innocence likely wouldn't have any bearing on whether the use of force was found to be justified.
“The commands being ignored, they used less-lethal force that was ineffective, the guy was running away … those factors are very relevant in leading them to believe, ‘This guy has done something wrong. This is our guy,’” Obayashi told the Times.
Thompson's family is filing a civil rights abuse claim against the sheriff's department, as well as a federal lawsuit. Matrice Stanley, Thompson's sister, also called for the deputy who shot Thompson to be fired.
"Why would SWAT and dogs and a number of people have to surround one man that was 130 pounds, 5'3" and kill him?" Stanley told the Associated Press. "Even if he didn't respond that doesn't justify killing him. There's no reason for this."