King County councilman calls for sheriff to resign over timing, contents of internal email

SEATTLE — The King County Sheriff is facing demands to resign immediately.

King County Councilman Joe McDermott says he’s furious over the timing and content of an internal email sent by Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht.

It concerned the fatal shooting of Tommy Le in Burien. The unarmed 20-year-old was shot in the back by Deputy Cesar Molina in June 2017.

On Wednesday, the county agreed to pay $5 million to Le’s family to settle their lawsuit over his death.

The sheriff sent out an internal email just a few hours later. It appeared to commiserate with Molina while minimizing how he killed Le.

The sheriff said she’d just spoken with Molina and “shared my appreciation of the difficulty of the decision and actions he had to take.”

“Proceeding to trial runs the risk of a verdict based on emotion, rather than facts.”

“I appreciate the ability to bring closure to this dispute.”

As to those facts, the Le family’s attorney was very clear.

“The truth is Deputy Molina shot and killed an unarmed 120-pound Asian high school student in the back while he was retreating,” Le family attorney Jeff Campiche said during a news conference on Wednesday.

KIRO 7 asked the sheriff for an interview on the day of the settlement and she declined.

After learning of the email, McDermott accused Johanknecht of being tone deaf and insensitive.

He said, in part:

“The email ignored reality and was disrespectful.

“I am sorry that the Le family had to read such a message.

“As families of young people of color killed at the hands of police, point out to us, there is a pattern here that we simply cannot ignore.

“I have no confidence the sheriff can effectively lead.

“I believe she must step down.”

When KIRO 7 asked the King County Sheriff’s Office if it or the sheriff had a response to McDermott’s call for the sheriff to resign, the Sheriff’s Office said, “Sheriff Johanknecht has no response to Councilmember McDermott’s remarks and will not resign.”