PROSECUTOR FINDS OFFICERS’ USE OF DEADLY FORCE LAWFUL
Independent and concurrent investigations by the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office, Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office, the Fife Police Department, and the Cooperative Cities Metro Crime Response Unit (CRU) regarding the shooting death of 30-year-old Leonard Benjamin Thomas have been completed. Thomas died from a gunshot wound inflicted by Lakewood Police Officer Brian Markert, a member of the Metro CRU SWAT.
Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist concluded the death was justifiable homicide under state law. “Officer Markert, an expert marksman, did what was necessary to protect a child,” said Prosecutor Lindquist.
On May 23, 2013, at 10:18 pm, Fife Police responded to Thomas’s residence in the 200 block of 55th Avenue East in Fife after Thomas’ mother reported that he had assaulted her. His mother said he was intoxicated. She was concerned about her four-year-old grandson who was inside with Thomas.
Police knew that Thomas had a history of violence and had made prior threats against law enforcement. They spoke to Thomas by telephone and he told officers he had a gun. Thomas’s behavior was very erratic. At one point, he dangled the four-year-old from a second story window. He also appeared on the porch of the house and held the child in front of him, refusing to let him go. Thomas went in and out of the residence several times and gave the appearance that he was going to release the child. Each time, however, Thomas pulled the boy back.
Because of concerns for the boy’s safety, a decision was made that Thomas should not be allowed to pull the child back into the house again. When Thomas and the boy exited the residence once more, and Thomas tried to pull the child back into the house again, he was shot in the pelvis by Officer Markert who was positioned across the street, with a rifle. Thomas was immediately incapacitated and police pulled the child to safety unharmed. Medical aid responded for Thomas. He was transported to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Clark confirmed that Thomas died from injuries caused by a single gunshot wound to his pelvis and that he was intoxicated.
Kelly Kelstrup, Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office