Tag Archives: Death of Tommy Le

‘A Failed Leader’: Momentum Builds in Demands for Sheriff Johanknecht’s Resignation

by Carolyn Bick


At the 43:22 timestamp in a video of a nearly two-hour King County Council meeting regarding the shooting death of Mi’Chance Dunlap-Gittens, King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht gets up and walks out of the room, before any members of the community speak, and before Mi’Chance Dunlap-Gittens’s mother starts to read the last poem her son wrote before police shot and killed him in 2017.

“I have to get on to the next thing,” Johanknecht says, looking at the watch on her left wrist.

Continue reading ‘A Failed Leader’: Momentum Builds in Demands for Sheriff Johanknecht’s Resignation

Le Family Settles, Says KCSO, Deputy Molina Culpable — Sheriff Email Claims Otherwise

by Carolyn Bick


Tommy Le loved to cook and garden with his grandmother and do landscaping work with his father. He was friendly with his teachers. He loved to play chess. He had a curiosity that made him seek out deeply philosophical texts — a trait so unique that his local librarians knew him by name. And on June 14, 2017, the 20-year-old Vietnamese American student was going to attend his graduation ceremony at South Seattle College, where he had graduated from the College Career Link program just the day before.

But Le never got to attend that graduation ceremony. He never got to wear his graduation outfit. Generations of his family — some of them refugees — never got to see him achieve his dream of becoming a firefighter.

Instead, King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) Deputy Cesar Molina shot the young man twice in the back and once in the back of the hand in Burien on June 13, 2017. The shots to the back killed Le.

Continue reading Le Family Settles, Says KCSO, Deputy Molina Culpable — Sheriff Email Claims Otherwise

King County Argued for In-Person Trial in Le Case, Despite Own COVID-19 Precautions

by Carolyn Bick


Tommy Le’s grandmother is in her 90s. Thanks to the fact that civil jury trials are currently being held virtually, to keep people safe in the novel coronavirus pandemic, she will be able to safely watch from home the civil trial against the man who killed her 20-year-old grandson in 2017.

But this would not have been the true if the judge presiding over the case had granted the request made by the lawyers for King County and Deputy Sheriff Cesar Molina for the trial to proceed in person.

Despite King County’s own Emergency Order halting all in-person civil jury trials until at least late March in order to keep people from catching the virus and developing COVID-19, lawyers for King County and Molina tried to argue that an in-person trial could be conducted safely. Though U.S. District Court Judge Thomas S. Zilly ultimately denied their request later that same day, King County’s and Molina’s lawyers pushed for an in-person trial regarding the shooting death of Vietnamese American student Tommy Le in a hearing held on Feb. 25, just a couple of days after health officials detected yet another novel coronavirus variant in King County and against the backdrop of vaccine predictions that appear to indicate that the vaccine won’t be available for everyone until at least July. The trial is set to begin in less than two months, on April 19.

Continue reading King County Argued for In-Person Trial in Le Case, Despite Own COVID-19 Precautions

Taxpayers Partially on Hook for County’s, Deputy Sheriff’s, and Their Lawyers’ Delay Tactics in Le Case

by Carolyn Bick


Even for a seasoned lawyer like Phil Talmadge, the fine the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has leveled against King County, the King County Sheriff’s Office deputy who shot Tommy Le, and — in what Talmadge says is also an unusual move — their lawyers, is a surprisingly hefty one: $56,752.60.

“The federal appellate courts, like Washington State appellate courts … are reluctant to award sanctions for a frivolous appeal. It doesn’t happen commonly,” Talmadge said. “There really [has] to be … a pretty flagrantly frivolous appeal before a court imposes the kind sanctions the Ninth Circuit [Court of Appeals] imposed. … There has to be no legalistic basis for the appeal. And that’s essentially what the Ninth Circuit said.”

The sanctions are one of the latest legal moves in the ongoing civil rights case the Le family and their civil case lawyers have brought against the officer, then-Deputy Cesar Molina — now Deputy Sheriff Cesar Molina — and King County. Talmadge worked as the appeals lawyer with the Le family and their civil case lawyers in a motion for sanctions (a penalty); in this case, the more than $56,000 fine leveled against the defendants and their lawyers. The fine is the total amount of money the court found that the Le family has spent specifically to fight an appeal filed by Molina, King County, and their lawyers just prior to the commencement of their trial, an appeal the plaintiffs argued was a frivolous delay tactic.  

Continue reading Taxpayers Partially on Hook for County’s, Deputy Sheriff’s, and Their Lawyers’ Delay Tactics in Le Case

Prosecutor’s Office May Face Conflict of Interest in Tommy Le Case

by Carolyn Bick


The only thing that appears to be standing in the way of the Washington State Office of the Attorney General or the United States Department of Justice bringing criminal charges against the King County Sheriff’s Office for its handling of the 2017 shooting death of Tommy Le is a phone call from either King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg or Gov. Jay Inslee.

But it is a phone call that, as of this writing, will likely not be placed any time soon. 

While the Le family attorneys also object to Inslee’s silence on the matter, this story will examine their contention that there exists a major problem within the King County Prosecutor’s Office (KCPO) — specifically, that the KCPO faces a conflict of interest in its decision to reserve the right to bring criminal charges against the deputy who shot Le — criminal charges that could negatively impact King County, the very client KCPO is defending in the ongoing federal civil rights suit regarding Le’s death.

Continue reading Prosecutor’s Office May Face Conflict of Interest in Tommy Le Case

The Morning Update Show — 10/19/20

The Morning Update Show — hosted by Trae Holiday and The Big O (Omari Salisbury) — is the only weekday news and information livestream that delivers culturally relevant content to the Pacific Northwest’s urban audience. Omari and Trae analyze the day’s local and national headlines as well as melanin magic in our community. Watch live every weekday at 11 a.m. on any of the following channels, hosted by Converge Media: YouTube, Twitch, Facebook, Periscope, and whereweconverge.com.

We’ll also post the Morning Update Show here on the Emerald each day after it airs, so you can catch up any time of day while you peruse our latest posts.

Morning Update Show — Monday, October 19

Today on the Morning Update Show:

**Live Julie C** — What is the Solidarity Budget?; Ballot Box Safety — King County Elections; WA State foster children being shipped out of state; More discrepancies in the KCSO shooting of Tommy Le; CHOP lawsuit against the City of Seattle; and City Council members being blamed for graffiti at Mayor Durkan’s home.

No Records Exist of the Review Board Interviews Conducted With the Deputies Involved in Tommy Le’s Shooting

by Carolyn Bick


When they read the OIR Group report commissioned by King County’s Office of Law Enforcement Oversight that looked into how the King County Sheriff’s Office handled the investigation into Tommy Le’s death, the Le family was surprised to read how much appeared to be working in favor of the sheriff’s department and the involved deputies, Tommy Le’s aunt Uyen Le said.

“When we received the report and the findings, it’s very obvious to us — I feel like it’s common sense that a lot of these things should be in place … but they obviously were not. And it just didn’t create a fair and just situation for Tommy. I think everything seemed to be working more in the favor of the sheriff’s department,” Uyen Le told the Emerald in an interview, referencing the report’s recommendations based on its findings.

The findings — compiled into a comprehensive, 42-page-long report that was released in early September — appeared to have a similar effect on at least one King County lawmaker, when report authors Michael Gennaco and Stephen Connolly presented it at the Sept. 2 meeting of the King County Council’s Law and Justice Committee. Upon learning of the findings, Committee Chair and District 2 Councilmember Girmay Zahilay — himself an attorney — said the way in which the King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) handled the investigation into Tommy Le’s shooting would appear to be “a clear obstruction of justice.”

Continue reading No Records Exist of the Review Board Interviews Conducted With the Deputies Involved in Tommy Le’s Shooting