King County Executive Dow Constantine has added his voice to those calling for King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht to resign, following an internal email the sheriff sent to King County Sheriff’s Office employees in late March. Constantine joins community groups and several elected officials.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.”
King County Undersheriff Patti Cole-Tindall will be recommending to Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht that King County Sheriff’s Office Detective Mike Brown be fired, according to an internal email shared with the Emerald.
Editor’s Note: This article contains details about a homicide case, including images of evidence and crime scene reconstruction, that readers may find disturbing and/or triggering.
In the weeks following 20-year-old Tommy Le’s death at the hands of King County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Cesar Molina, Xuyen Le still refused to believe her nephew would have attacked the police with anything, much less a knife. She told then-Sheriff John Urquhart as much at a meeting of the Asian Pacific Directors Coalition, which she later described in the process of court proceedings.
“I then told the Sheriff it was our firm belief that, ‘Tommy would never attack the police and certainly not with a knife.’ I politely asked Sheriff Urquhart the most important question to our family and community, ‘Why did the officers shoot Tommy if he was not attacking the officers with a knife – a weapon?’” Xuyen Le’s declaration reads.
In an internal email sent to King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) employees last week, Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht said that King County Executive Dow Constantine did not speak with her about his proposal to shift $4.6 million in marijuana tax revenue from the sheriff’s department to community-based programs.
Among its many critiques of the way in which the King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) handled the 2017 shooting death of Tommy Le — including the “unsettling” lack of accountability — the King County Office of Law Enforcement Oversight (OLEO) said that the newly released report it commissioned on the shooting and bureaucratic aftermath found that “[t]he Sheriff’s Office went to extraordinary measures in its investigation to advance the theory the Le had a knife at some point in the encounter.”