LOS ANGELES (AP) — The attorney for the family of an unarmed man fatally shot by a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy questioned Thursday why one of two gunshot wounds was in the man's upper back after police said he charged them.
"If this man is charging at you, if he's running toward you, how is it that he's shot in the back? How is that?" family attorney Brian Dunn told reporters at a news conference. "That is an example of the falseness that has been told to this family."
Sheriff's Lt. John Corina said in a telephone interview that one of 27-year-old Donnell Thompson Jr.'s wounds was in his upper left shoulder blade because the deputy who shot him on July 28 in Compton was positioned up to 10 feet above him at close range in the turret of an armored car.
That high firing angle is what allowed the bullet to reach Thompson's shoulder blade, Corina said, dismissing the family attorney's speculation about the wound.
At the time of the shooting, the department said deputies suspected Thompson in a carjacking and of shooting at police. In a stunning announcement Tuesday, they said no evidence connected Thompson to those crimes and no weapon was found.
Dunn criticized the sheriff's department for not disclosing earlier that one of the bullets fired hit Thompson's back.
Corina said the family wasn't told about the exact gunshots wounds earlier because the department wasn't sure until after an autopsy whether Thompson suffered one through-and-through wound or two separate ones
"We're not trying to deceive anybody or cover anything up," Corina said. "It's an investigation and not all the answers are available right away."
Corina said the deputy reported shooting twice at Thompson but did not think the first bullet hit him, saying he saw no visible reaction from Thompson after firing that shot. The bullets were fired as little as one second apart from an M4 carbine rifle, Corina said.
The deputy who fatally shot Thompson is a 20-year veteran now on paid desk duty while the shooting is being investigated. His name and personnel record have not been made public.
The deputy said he fired because he feared Thompson was armed and could harm officers or citizens if he got beyond the armored car, Corina said.
Deputies searching for a carjacking suspect found Thompson hours later after a homeowner about a half-mile away reported a man lying in his front yard.
Thompson fit the general description of the carjacking suspect — a black man between 20 and 30 wearing dark clothing. He didn't move or respond when deputies repeatedly shouted at him and then used a flash-bang device.
Thompson finally got up when he was shot with rubber bullets and charged at an armored police vehicle about 25 feet away, Corina said.
Thompson's family has filed a civil rights claim in his death and plans to file a federal lawsuit by the end of September.
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