A federal court jury in Seattle has awarded nearly $15 million to the family and 9-year-old son of an unarmed African-American man who was shot and killed by a SWAT sniper in front of the child in Fife, finding police had no reason to use deadly force.
The award includes $3 million in punitive damages against Lakewood Police Chief Mike Zaro, who was the SWAT commander during the 2013 standoff; another $1.5 million in punitive damages against Lakewood Officer Michael Wiley, who led an assault on the home and shot the family’s dog; and $2 million in punitive damages against Lakewood Sgt. Brian Markert, the sniper who shot Leonard Thomas in the belly from 90 feet away, according to the court clerk and Tim Ford, one of the lawyer’s representing Thomas’ family.
Thomas was shot outside his home when he grabbed for his son after Wiley’s team used explosives to enter the home. Attorneys for his family contend Thomas was about to hand the child over to his grandmother.
Moreover, Cartwright told the jury the situation was “that close” to resolving peacefully when Zaro, who was assistant chief at the time, ordered an assault team to breach the back of the home using plastic explosives to blow down a door. They also shot the family dog five times.
Attorneys for the officers and city defendants told the jury in their opening statements that Thomas was playing games with police and using his son as a “pawn.”
Lawyer Richard Jolley told the jury that, despite Thomas’ promise at the end of four tense hours of negotiations that he would let the boy go — even taking a backpack of clothes and a car seat onto the front porch — he had no real intention of doing so