Sheriff John Urquhart and other county officials have agreed to meet with family, community members and other concerned citizens regarding the shooting death of Tommy Le by a King County Sheriff’s deputy in Burien last month.
The public forum is set for July 19, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Asian Counseling and Referral Service building at 3639 Martin Luther King Jr. Way South.
King County Sheriff’s deputies contracted by the city of Burien responded to a disturbance on June 13, where several 911 callers reported a man was brandishing a knife and calling himself “the creator.” The man, later identified as 20-year-old Le, approached the deputies and ignored commands to drop what he was holding; after firing their tasers, one deputy, Cesar Molina, opened fire. Initial reports implied that Le was holding a knife as he approached the deputies. However, as first reported by Seattle Weekly, Le in fact was holding a pen.
Le’s death came just five days before two Seattle police officers shot and killed Charleena Lyles, which prompted widespread community outcry. Reaction to Le’s death has been more muted. However, there has been a concerted, behind-the-scenes organizing effort within the Vietnamese community to get more answers about the circumstances of Le’s death. Those efforts have culminated with the public meeting with the sheriff, which will also include King County Councilmembers Joe McDermott and Dave Upthegrove; King County Executive Dow Constantine; Prosecutor Dan Satterberg; and Office of Law Enforcement Oversight director Deborah Jacobs, according to the events page.
It’s an impressive guest list, all the more so given that Mayor Ed Murray and Chief of Police Kathleen O’Toole declined to attend a similar forum about Lyles’ death, saying that doing so could compromise the investigation.
“As the community continues to mourn this loss and search for answers, Tommy Le’s family, along with officials from King County, will be hosting a public forum to discuss police intervention in this case,” reads the announcement of the forum.
Following Le’s death, Deputy Molina was put on administrative leave and met with a mental health professional, according to the King County Sheriff’s Office. He was approved by a psychologist to return to work June 30. A week later, on July 7, Molina was driving home shortly after 2 a.m. and struck a pedestrian in Fife. The pedestrian was then hit by another car and died at the scene. Molina was put back on administrative leave pending the investigation of the traffic accident. The pedestrian was identified as James Taitano; according to Facebook, Taitano worked nights at Walmart.
Le was killed just hours before he was to graduate from a high-school completion program at South Seattle College. Classmates described him as “a bubbly kid” to The Seattle Times.