Tommy Le was supposed to graduate on June 14 at Career Link, an alternative high school completion program at South Seattle College but he was dead hours before the celebration began.
According to the Seattle Times, the student, who has been described “goofy” and “bubbly” by his teachers and schoolmates, was shot and killed by a sheriff’s deputy in King County just hours before his graduation.
The shooting is still under investigation by the sheriff’s Major Crimes Unit as details surrounding his killing has been marred with some inconsistencies.
In the initial report of the killing, it was stated that several 911 calls about a disturbance caused by a reportedly armed man prompted the dispatch of three deputies in the 13600 block of Third Avenue South in Burien at around midnight.
The man, later identified as Le, was said to be threatening people in the area while carrying a sharp object, reported initially as a knife.
One of the residents in the block said he had fired his handgun to scare the man away. The homeowner told 911 that Le was undeterred by the warning shot and continued to approach him so he ran back inside his house.
Hours before graduation, Tommy Le was shot and killed by a deputy who thought he had a knife. He was carrying a pen. https://t.co/3EjUkklKOh pic.twitter.com/ZgwsF6PKIP
— Paige Cornwell (@pgcornwell) June 29, 2017
The King County Sheriff’s Office recounted that Le pounded on the door and then stabbed it while screaming to the homeowner that he was “the Creator.”
When the authorities confronted Le, and ordered him to drop “what they thought was a knife,” he refused, sheriff’s spokeswoman Sgt. Cindi West was quoted as saying.
Tasers were then fired at Le, which seemed to have had no effect on him as he moved toward the two responding deputies.
As he reportedly made his approach, a deputy shot him three times. He was later proclaimed dead at Harborview Medical Center.
The Sheriff’s Office would later report over a week later that Le did not actually have a knife with him when he was fatally shot. He was, in fact, holding a pen.
Le, who had no criminal record, also had shown no signs of mental illness or violence, according to his family and friends.
People who know him, including his teachers and schoolmates, have expressed how uncharacteristic it was for the Le to be threatening people.
Le was a “goofy, little guy,” who was “always smiling,” according to his teachers.
“He’s a bubbly kid,” fellow graduate Nafisa Mohamednur said, noting that the authorities might have had the wrong person. “He’s an easy person to talk to about anything.”
Career Link director Curt Peterson, who is also and one of Le’s teachers, thinks his death did not make any sense.
“In a school that works entirely with dropouts, we get interesting kids,” Peterson said. “I could tell you, 100 people, I would have imagined this happening to before him … If we had a discipline file on Tommy it would be completely empty. He was the sweetest kid in the world. He didn’t have an aggressive bone in his body.”
Le’s father, Sunny Le, has expressed condemnation on how the law enforcement handled the situation.
“I’m so angry,” he said, noting that his son was only carrying a pen when he was shot to death by a deputy. “I want to know what happened to my son.”
Feature image via Seattle Times/Career Link