Family of Burien OIS victim Tommy Le says inquest process is unfair

The family of Tommy Le, the young man killed by a King County sheriff's deputy in June, wants the inquest process changed.

Tommy Le, 20, was shot by deputies in Burien after neighbors called 911 to report his erratic behavior. They told a 911 operator he was pounding on their doors and had a knife.  No knife was found at the scene; instead, a pen was found on the ground.

The attorney for the family says the current inquest process is one-sided -- a "whitewash."  Attorney Jeff Campiche says instead of King County prosecutors questioning witnesses, he would like to have the chance to present his own witnesses and experts.

"When I present the testimony of a police training expert and a forensic expert that recreates from the physical evidence that can't lie," said Campiche, "I don't want the prosecutor to present that evidence for me, I want to do that on behalf of the family."

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An inquest is a fact-finding hearing conducted before a six-member jury. Inquests are convened to determine the causes and circumstances of any death involving a member of any law enforcement agency within King County while performing his or her duty.  No liability is found in an inquest.

The King County Sheriff's Office initially reported Le had a knife and had charged at them before the deadly shooting. It was later discovered Le had a pen, not a knife. Investigators believe Le might have gone home and left the knife behind before officers arrived.

The attorney for Le's family doesn't think he ever had a knife.

The King County Medical Examiner's report shows Le was shot in the back and in the hand.  Campiche questions how Le could have been a threat to five officers if he had his back turned when he was shot.

Campiche says inquests are set up to side with officers and says the family of the victim needs a voice in the process.

He sent a letter to King County Executive Dow Constantine asking him to change the inquest process.

KIRO 7 contacted the King County Executive's Office about the request to change the inquest process.

"We don't currently make exceptions to procedures established by Executive Order -governing inquests in King County," said Alex Fryer, Director of Communications for the King County Executive."This is one of several issues related to inquests that are being reviewed internally. We'll have more information in the coming weeks."

The motion by Le’s family attorney asking to change the inquest process will be heard in King County District Court on January 12th.