On July 28, a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy shot and killed 27-year-old Donnell Thompson, an unarmed man whom deputies mistakenly believed might be connected to a carjacking suspect who had fired shots at deputies three hours earlier.
On Tuesday, however, the sheriff’s department admitted in a statement that there was “no evidence that Mr. Thompson was in the carjacked vehicle, nor that he was involved in the assault on the deputies.”
The original incident began around 2:30 a.m. on Thursday, July 28, when sheriff’s deputies noticed a Honda Civic driving erratically. The deputy pulled the car over then ran the plates and determined that the car was stolen. The driver of the stolen car took off, crashing through the fence at a local elementary school driving onto school grounds to get away. As the case continued, the driver reportedly opened fire on police and eventually crashed the stolen Honda, and fled on foot. The alleged car jacker, whose name Robert Alexander was captured just before 5 a.m.
Shortly after Alexander was apprehended and arrested, deputies were alerted by a neighborhood resident that a man (Thompson) was lying in his yard. LASD Special Enforcement Bureau deputies in two armored vehicles responded to the call. The officers said Thompson was not responding to deputies’ commands. The SEB officers reportedly fired a flash bang grenade and rubber bullets at the man they viewed as a suspect. Thompson reportedly did not respond to the flash bang, but appeared to rouse in reaction to the rubber bullets, and finally stood up. Then, according to sheriff’s deputies, Thompson—who was reportedly small in stature—charged toward the deputies. A deputy fatally shot Thompson from the turret of one of the armored vehicles. That deputy has been reassigned to desk duties.
Thanks to DNA and gunshot residue testing, the department was able to make the determination that there is no evidence linkingThompson to the carjacking or the assault on the deputies involved, but department investigators are still in the process of reviewing the shooting and the events leading up to it.
Sources close to the department expressed concern to us back in July when news of this shooting surfaced. “This doesn’t add up,” one department veteran told WLA. Two weeks later, now that more information on the shooting is available, a retired department supervisor questioned why “the ‘highly trained SEB’ deputy” would shoot Thompson from “the protected turret of an armored vehicle.” (See above photo of the scene captured by ABC7.)
Friends and family members say Thompson, whom they called by the nickname “Little Bo Peep,” was kind and soft-spoken, and emotionally far younger than his 27 years. Thompson was attending classes for the mentally disabled at El Camino College, and reportedly had no criminal history.
“We just want answers as to why,” said Thompson’s sister. “We want the sheriff’s department to be held accountable for their actions.”
Thompson’s family reportedly plans to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the county.
“Clearly the Thompson family has some very grave concerns, and some questions that they’d like to have answers for, said LASD Captain Steven Katz in an interview with ABC7. “We believe that they’re certainly valid, and we have those same questions.”