Sheriff's Department Admits Deputy Shot the Wrong Guy

File photo of the L.A. Sheriff's Department in action
File photo of the L.A. Sheriff's Department in action

Today, a major metropolitan law enforcement organization said something cops rarely say: We shot the wrong unarmed black man.

The department says the man whom one of its deputies fatally shot, 27-year-old Donnell Thompson, was not the suspect they were looking for at the end of a vehicle pursuit. But they say he failed to comply with cops' orders and ultimately charged at officers.

According to a Sheriff's Department statement, "No weapons were recovered" after Thompson's demise. He was dead at the scene following the 5:29 a.m. bloodshed July 28.

Author Earl Ofari Hutchinson says he will join fellow L.A. civil rights leaders Thursday to call for an independent investigation into the shooting, which already has sheriff's detectives and district attorney's investigators on the case. The press conference at National Action Network headquarters in Jefferson Park also will lament the second anniversary of the fatal shooting of an unarmed mentally ill man, Ezell Ford, by Los Angeles Police Department officers.

"The Thompson shooting is so outrageous," Hutchinson said. "You can't make the case he's a suspect."

Black Lives Matter's Long Beach chapter also is concerned with the shooting, according to one of the organization's L.A. leaders.

The confrontation with Thompson unfolded after deputies on patrol on Alameda Street in Compton pulled over a vehicle and discovered it was stolen, the department said. The car took off and someone inside opened fire at pursuing deputies, authorities said.

At 2:32 a.m., at West 133rd Street and North Slater Avenue in Compton, the vehicle hit a curb and stopped. "One of the suspects exited the car with a gun in his hand and pointed it at the deputies, and a deputy-involved shooting occurred," the department stated. "It was unknown if the suspect was hit by gunfire at that time."

A SWAT team was called out as deputies searched for fleeing suspects. '"One suspect was found hiding in a residence in the 2000 block of Slater Avenue and taken into custody without incident," the department stated.

During the search, a neighbor called 911 to report someone in his yard in the  800 block of Stockwell Street, authorities said. 

That suspect, Thompson, allegedly "refused to obey ... commands to surrender," according to the sheriff's statement. "Mr. Thompson was lying in a position that concealed one of his hands from view and was unresponsive to numerous commands."

"He aroused and stood up [and] he charged at the deputies who had come to assist the resident," the department stated.

One deputy opened fire.

"We have determined that there is no evidence that Mr. Thompson was in the carjacked vehicle, nor that he was involved in the assault on the deputies," sheriff's officials stated today.

Hutchinson said the admission set a precedent — cops 'fessing up that they shot the wrong guy shortly after it happened.

"You don't have to sit on a case for months while you concoct excuses to justify a bad shooting," he said. "When you have a shooting, let's be transparent."

The victim's family have retained an attorney.  Now comes the hard part, however: finding out if the cop involved should be disciplined. 


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