SEATTLE - King County will pay $5 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the family of Tommy Le, a 20-year-old shot and killed by a deputy in Burien the night before his high school graduation.
Jeff Campiche, the family's attorney, announced the settlement at a news conference Wednesday morning.
"By all accounts, by all testimony, whether his teachers, family, friends, neighbors, Tommy was a thoughtful young man," Campiche said. "All of them described Tommy as respectful, somewhat shy, and in his last year or two, motivated to success. He was graduating from high school the day he was shot, and going to college.
"He loved ideas, social ideas, political ideas," Campiche continued. "He loved to play chess more than video games. He loved to cook and garden with his grandmother."
A deputy shot and killed Le in 2017 - the night before his high school graduation - after the officer mistook a pen in the 20-year-old's hand for a knife.
Cesar Molina, the deputy who shot him, was the third deputy to arrive and, according to his sworn deposition and court documents, confronted and shot Le after he and another deputy unsuccessfully tried to incapacitate him with a stun gun.
The King County sheriff’s office initially reported Le, who had hallucinogens in his system, had attacked deputies and was shot in self-defense. An autopsy and investigation showed Le was shot in the back, court records said.
An outside review of the investigation released in 2020 offered sharp criticism of the King County Sheriff's Office investigation into the deadly shooting.
The report said it found serious gaps in the department's investigation of Le's death.
"They covered up the truth by misstating, omitting and even tampering with evidence," Campiche said Wednesday.
The sheriff's office released the following statement in response to the settlement:
"The King County Sheriff's Office was ready and willing to try this case in a court of law.
Although the parties do not agree on the fundamental facts of this case, we are pleased this settlement will allow everyone to avoid a difficult, and likely painful, trial.
King County Sheriff's Deputy Cesar Molina was dismissed from the lawsuit as a named party as a condition of the settlement."
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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