No Emergency. No Hostage: 30 White SWAT Cops Respond to Domestic Call w/Armored Vehicle, Helicopter & Snipers. Murder Black Man Holding His Son & Posing No Threat. From [HERE] and [MORE] Fourteen hours with an arbitrator was not enough to resolve a bitter dispute over the $15.1 million federal jury verdict against the Lakewood Police Department, its chief and two officers for the 2013 fatal shooting of an unarmed African-American man holding his son, according to court documents.
A federal judge had hoped lawyers representing the family and estate of Leonard Thomas and those for Lakewood, Chief Mike Zaro and the other officers could reach a settlement. However, the city’s attorneys have notified U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein that mediation has failed and are asking for a hearing.
Rothstein could set a hearing on several pending motions or rule on them without additional argument.
The city of Lakewood, Zaro and two of his officers, Sgt. Brian Markert and Officer Mike Wiley, were the focus of the July jury verdict, which levied $8.6 million in compensatory damages to Thomas’ parents and 9-year-old son, and an unprecedented $6.5 million in punitive damages against Zaro ($3 million), Markert ($2 million) and Wiley ($1.5 million).
They were the key players in a four-hour SWAT standoffthat ended when Thomas was shot by Markert, a sniper, as Thomas stood on the front porch of his Fife home with his 4-year-old son after agreeing to send the boy home with the boy’s grandmother.
Thomas was unarmed when he was shot, and no firearms were found in the Thomas home. Testimony showed that he had never threatened himself, his son or police during the incident.
The incident was tragically avoidable and that the arrival of the SWAT team - which surrounded the home and parked an armored-personnel carrier on Thomas' front lawn - escalated a minor domestic argument into a siege.
Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist, racist suspect in photo above, concluded the shooting was lawful and determined the SWAT sniper "did what was necessary to protect a child."
Attorney Tiffany Cartwright, one of the lawyers representing Thomas' parents and his now 9-year-old son, told the jury that nothing that the drunken, despondent, bipolar man did warranted a massive police response the night of May 23, 2013, for a misdemeanor, domestic-violence offense. Two armored vehicles and at least 27 officers responded, including the Pierce Metro SWAT team.
Based on photographs introduced in trial, the majority, if not all, of the officers were white. Attorneys for Thomas' family said in court documents that the case was "steeped in race."
Cartwright also told the jury the situation was "that close" to resolving peacefully when Zaro 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.
Thomas, 30, drunk and despondent over the sudden death of a childhood friend, had been holed up for hours with his 4-year-old son after his mother called Fife police following an argument. A police negotiator had finally convinced Thomas to let the child go home with his grandmother for the night - which is what Thomas and his mother had fought about in the first place.
Once the child was safe, the negotiator and a SWAT commander figured officers would just let Thomas sleep off a bad night and come back later to deal with a misdemeanor domestic-violence allegation stemming from a tussle over his mother's cellphone while she was talking to 911, according to police reports.
That isn't what happened.
As a skittish Thomas led the boy onto the front porch to send him down the sidewalk to the child's waiting grandmother, members of a SWAT assault team used explosives to blow open a back door, forcing their way in and killing the family dog with a burst of gunfire. Thomas - who was unarmed - reportedly lunged for his son, and he was fatally shot by a police sniper as he held the boy.
The assault-team leader, Lakewood police Officer Mike Wiley, announced the shooting over a SWAT frequency: "We have jackpot."
Witnesses said officers had to punch the dying man several times to pry the child out of his arms, and that his last words were, "Don't hurt my boy." [MORE]
Police found no firearms in the house.
In asking the judge to throw out the verdict, Lakewood’s lawyers argued that the trial was racially charged and influenced the size of the award. They also have argued that all three officers — Zaro in particular — would suffer the financial equivalent of a death sentence if forced to pay the punitive damages, which they argue are not covered by the city’s insurance policy.
The city has argued in court documents that the jury was influenced by “obvious sentiment in the community about police excessive force against African-Americans.”
“Defendants were saddled with the impossible burden of defending not only this case, but also the ubiquitous but unsubstantiated narratives that police are allegedly targeting African-Americans for excessive force,” wrote attorney Brian Augenthaler. “It is apparent that the jury was inflamed as a result of the unchecked, factually devoid theory that Leonard was yet another ‘unarmed’ African-American man shot by police.”
What will a white judge do with the white cops claims to not be held personally liable for the murder of a Black man in a racist system? Don't hold your breath.