Tommy Le was a 20-year-old high schooler shot and killed by King County deputies on June 13 after responding to a disturbance call in Burien. Le was to graduate the next day. Le recently bought a tuxedo for his brother’s wedding, but it had to instead be used for his funeral. The family, due to legal concerns and religious practice, will not be available for interviews for 49 days after his death.
In an effort to get answers for Tommy Le’s family, members of the community organized a forum at Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS) in which officials listened and answered questions. Young Vietnamese Americans were given priority after the family throughout the evening.
King County Sheriff John Urquhart feels officer-involved shootings should never be investigated within their own police department. For Le’s case in particular, Urquhart said he is asking the Federal Bureau of Investigations to take over.
Photos captured through that event (June 25, 2017) can be seen through my Flickr account. Some photos were published with South Seattle Emerald.
After the death of Charleena Lyles, a black pregnant mother shot and killed by two Seattle Police Department (SPD) officers, Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant requested a public hearing at the UW’s Kane Hall between the Lyles family and SPD Chief Kathleen O’Toole.
The chief, however, declined to participate. O’Toole’s response stated Sawant’s request via email had “a disappointing level of ignorance of SPD policies and clear disdain for the investigatory process and review that SPD is court mandated to follow.” SPD has, however, done such public hearings before. The department held a heated public discussion last year with family after Che Taylor, a black man, died at the hands of SPD. O’Toole went on to write that had Sawant “expressed any interest in our work over the past three years…we would have gladly welcomed the invitation to engage.”
Regardless of SPD’s presence, the public hearing wasn’t cancelled, but rather became a space to heal. The event was moderated by Michele Storms, the Washington state American Civil Liberties Union deputy director, who permitted Lyles’ family to speak at any time. Charles Lyles, Charleena Lyles’ father, first explained his daughter’s name is pronounced with a hard “ch-,” not a soft “sh-.” The family had repeatedly heard “Say Her Name” over the past week only to have it pronounced incorrectly.
Charles Lyles brought up how the media blamed his daughter for her own death and denounced such conclusions. He explained Charleena Lyles was harassed by her ex-boyfriend. She even called the police and requested a protection order prior to this incident, but that went reportedly disregarded. The call she placed with SPD on June 18 was for burglary. The police who responded, however, discussed that she was too poor to have those type of belongings in the first place on their way to killing her.
“This one has to be the last straw that broke the camel’s back,” Jennifer Cobb said during her testimony.
She mentioned the death of Ben Keita, a Muslim teenager who was found hanging from a tree in Lake Stevens earlier this year.
Seattle community members repeatedly asked for the councilmembers to hold themselves accountable. It was requested that the officials put their phones away, twice. People asked that more be done for de-escalation training, and to remove paid administrative leave for the two officers under investigation.
One woman, Roxanne White of the Yakama Nation, moved the audience to tears.
“This nation has never served our people, both the Native Americans and African Americans,” White said. “Our lives matter as women, we are sacred, we are the backbone … until they respect us, nothing else will happen to change this community.”
National and local patterns where people of color die disproportionately at the hands of police
Seattle’s jagged mountains were shaded blue the morning Charleena Lyles was fatally shot by Steven McNew and Jason Anderson of the Seattle Police Department (SPD), matching that of the community’s reaction to such police violence: tragic and somewhat jaded, topped with anger as sharp as the rocky skyline.
Lyles’ death tacks on yet another name to the list of people killed by police since 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot in 2014, when the nation decided it had enough and finally started taking note. Lyles was a mother of four, and was reportedly pregnant.
The planning was set over the course of a week, organized by three core members. This year’s Pride Parade would feature a surprise altar for Charleena Lyles, a 30-year-old pregnant mother of four killed by Seattle Police Department officers Steven McNew and Jason Anderson on June 18.
The two defendants in the Jan. 20 UW shooting pleaded not guilty Wednesday morning in the King County Courthouse.
Elizabeth and Marc Hokoana had their bails initially set at $50,000 each before the figure was reduced to $10,000 because neither of them have a criminal history, they’re unlikely to flee, and neither are receiving any income. Marc Hokoana was a pre-med student at the UW, but both the Hokoanas are banned from campus. Elizabeth Hokoana has since been put on unpaid leave.
The defendants waived their right to a speedy trial. Both are sticking to self-defense claims.
Steven Wells, one of the defense attorneys, painted his narrative by calling Joshua Dukes, the man shot, an accuser. It was also argued in their presentation that the scene on Red Square on Jan. 20 was enough to make the Hokoanas scared, citing Molotov cocktails. There were no Molotov cocktails thrown that night, according to the UWPD report.
“There’s a lot of things not in the police report,” Wells responded to that.
“If it was such a thing, it would be in the police report,” UWPD Major Steve Rittereiser said. “That was the first time I’ve heard that, but it’s not unusual to hear those types of things said as speculation in a case.”
Wells also claimed that Dukes had Facebook posts of his own that show premeditated violence, but has since deleted his Facebook account. The latter is false. Wells stated that he submitted the posts into evidence to the prosecuting attorney and The Daily is waiting to see if a records request for those items will be granted. In addition, there is only one search warrant of many that is currently open to the public.
“I’m gonna say something that a lot of folks won’t like,” says Joshua Dukes, the man who was shot on the University of Washington campus while protesting a speech given by alt-right icon Milo Yiannopoulos on Inauguration Day. “I don’t think Elizabeth [the shooter] should be permanently stripped of her gun rights.”
This is something Dukes’ lawyer didn’t release a statement on, but a matter Dukes himself wanted out in the public. If Elizabeth Hokoana is found guilty of first degree assault (a class A felony) as charged by the prosecuting attorney’s office, she will no longer be allowed to own a firearm (Marc Hokoana, who is charged with third degree assault, a class C felony, wouldn’t face the gun restriction.)
“[Elizabeth] needs to be held accountable, but we also need to look in ourselves if we want to address the root of the problem and not a symptom,” Dukes says. “Their guns make the symptoms worse, but the root is deeper.”