Aaron Thompson remembers his brother and best friend Ryan Thompson as someone who enjoyed cooking, fishing, and spending time with his wife and three children at their home just outside Ellensburg, but what stands out most of all in his memory is Ryan’s warmth toward others.
Ryan Thompson made and ran into friends wherever he went. The two brothers even stumbled upon one of Ryan’s many pals when leaving a Pearl Jam concert at KeyArena one time. The friend picked Ryan out in the mob of people, shouting his name, and Ryan fought his way through the crowd to go shake the man’s hand.
“He was just a stand-up guy … my dad always said that Ryan never knew a stranger,” Aaron said. “He was just a very friendly, outgoing guy.”
It has been exactly one month now that Aaron has been learning to live without his brother.
On the evening of March 19, Kittitas County Sheriff’s Deputy Ryan Thompson was shot to death in the line of duty, in a road rage incident that turned into a gunfight.
The 42-year-old left behind his wife Sarah, along with a 16-year-old daughter, 3-year-old daughter, and 2-year-old son.
“She is trying to work through this the best she can,” Aaron said of Sarah. “There are a lot of really hard days, and there are a lot of really hard days ahead for her and for the kids, but she’s an amazing person and she’s persevering.”
For Aaron and his family, what is even more gut-wrenching than losing someone so young is the realization that Ryan’s death may not have occurred were it not for certain political policies in Washington.
The suspect who shot Ryan, Juan Manuel Flores Del Toro — who later died of his wounds — was in the U.S. illegally, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“I think that Ryan’s death was preventable, and I think that, in my personal opinion, if we were not a sanctuary state that basically guarantees that people who are here illegally won’t be sent home — even if they’re contacted by law enforcement — I think that this could have been prevented,” Aaron told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson.
Governor Jay Inslee has declared Washington to be a sanctuary state. Many mayors and county leaders throughout the state, such as King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, have declared their jurisdictions to be sanctuary areas.
Aaron, who, like his late brother, is a cop, finds sanctuary policies to be “feel-good” measures for politicians, but dangerous for the population those politicians serve. It amounts to nothing more than ignoring the federal law of the land, he said — and that is a “slippery slope.”
“Maybe it feels good to say, ‘Hey, we want to welcome everyone,’ but Ryan’s death, and some of the other crimes that you’ve highlighted on your show, are the consequences, intended or not, of ignoring the laws that are already in place in our country,” he said.
While Inslee has unofficially referred to Washington as a sanctuary state on numerous occasions, the Washington State House of Representatives just passed a bill that would set this sanctuary policy in stone. Aaron urges state senators to vote no on the bill.
From his law enforcement experience, Aaron is adamant that he and his colleagues have neither the time nor the inclination to find and send home the vast majority of undocumented immigrants, who obey the law and “are just here to work.”
However, the new bill in Olympia would eliminate communication between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities.
“It would keep us from even contacting Homeland Security about people who are here, committing criminal acts, violent criminal acts, basically any criminal acts — and those are people that we shouldn’t want to keep here,” Aaron said.
It is for this reason that when Governor Inslee’s office called Aaron’s parents to ask if Inslee could speak at the funeral, they told the governor that not only did they wish him not to speak, but they did not want him to attend the memorial at all.
“We did not want him there, we did not want him to speak at my brother’s funeral because we feel that he is partially responsible for his death,” Aaron said.
He elaborated, “Anyone who wants to come out and say that they are a sanctuary city [or county] for people who are here illegally, when something bad happens in their jurisdiction or under their watch, that blood is on their hands.”
One of the most heartbreaking parts for the Thompson family came the night before the funeral, as Aaron and his brother drove home from the rehearsal for the service. In front of the Kittitas County Courthouse, people had set up a memorial to Deputy Ryan Thompson, with candles, flowers, and cards. However, that night, a group of protesters stood directly in front of the memorial with signs saying, “Keep immigrant families together.”
The callousness of the protesters’ timing hit Aaron like a punch in the gut.
“I wanted to yell at them, ‘What about our family, what about my family, what about my brother’s family?'” Aaron said. “Because that guy was here illegally breaking the law, now my brother has lost his life, his kids have lost their dad, I’ve lost my brother and my best friend.”
Aaron pointed out that if the majority of Americans want a different federal immigration policy, then people should work to change the laws on the books, as is the process in a democratic republic. Ignoring those laws, however, sets a terrible precedent, he feels.
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