Prosecutor finds officers' use of deadly force lawful in shooting of man who held son hostage

by: KIRO 7 STAFF Updated:

FIFE, Wash. - The shooting death of Leonard Benjamin Thomas, who died of a gunshot wound inflicted by a Lakewood police officer, was been found Wednesday to be a justifiable homicide under state law by Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist.

The finding came following independent and concurrent investigations by the Pierce County Medical Examiner's Office, the Pierce County Prosecutor's Office, the Fife Police Department and the Cooperative Cities Metro Crime Response Unit (CRU).

Thomas was 30 years old when he was fatally shot by Lakewood Police Officer Brian Markert, a member of the Metro CRU SWAT.

"Officer Markert, an expert marksman, did what was necessary to protect a child," said Lindquist.

Fife police went to Thomas's residence in the 200 block of 55th Avenue East on May 23 at 10:18 p.m. after Thomas's mother reported that he had assaulted her. His mother told police he was intoxicated. She said she was concerned about her 4-year-old grandson, who was inside with Thomas.

Police knew that Thomas had a history of violence and had made prior threats against law-enforcement officers, according to Prosecuting Attorney's Office spokeswoman Kelly Kelstrup. They spoke to Thomas by telephone and he told officers he had a gun. Thomas's behavior was very erratic. At one point, he dangled the 4-year-old from a second-story window. He also appeared on the porch of the house and held the child in front of him, refusing to let him go. Thomas went in and out of the residence several times and gave the appearance that he was going to release the child. Each time, however, Thomas pulled the boy back.

Because of concerns for the boy's safety, a decision was made that Thomas should not be allowed to pull the child back into the house again, Kelstrup said. When Thomas and the boy exited the residence once more, and Thomas tried to pull the child back into the house again, he was shot in the pelvis by Markert, who was positioned across the street with a rifle. Thomas was immediately incapacitated and police pulled the child to safety unharmed. Medical aid was given to Thomas. He was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Clark confirmed that Thomas died from injuries caused by a single gunshot wound to his pelvis and that he was intoxicated.

Thomas's 4-year-old son was not hurt. He was returned to the custody of his mother.