Multiple cases of mistaken identity have landed many innocent men and women in unfortunate run-ins with the law. Last month, the LA Sheriff's Department mistook Donnell Thompson for a dangerous suspect they were pursuing, and their mistake cost an innocent man his life.
On July 28, a man named Robert Alexander, 24, stole a Honda Civic at gunpoint, fired shots at sheriff’s deputies in the Los Angeles suburb of Compton, and went into hiding in a nearby house. Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies were sent out with heavy artillery in SWAT vehicles to find and capture Alexander.
However, they instead found Thompson, 27, who they initially believed was a second suspect in the carjacking.
When the LA Sheriff's Department's team roamed the streets in their heavily armored vehicles, a Compton resident informed officials that a man was laying lifeless in their front yard. The deputies in the vehicles, still under the impression that Thompson was a suspect, found him and tried to engage with him.
According to their accounts, he was unresponsive, which forced them to use flash-bangs and foam bullets. However, he still remained on the lawn. The deputies claim that he eventually started to charge towards them, which is when they shot him twice in the torso with an assault rifle.
When these deputies fired shots at Thompson, other law enforcement officials were arresting Alexander, the real suspect. For two weeks, the LA Sheriff's Department continued to affirm their belief that Thompson was related to the crime; however, on Tuesday of this week, the police department admitted that they wrongfully killed an innocent, unarmed man.
What the LA Sheriff's Department didn’t realize when they first pursued Thompson, who was unresponsive to their commands, was that Thompson had the mental capacity of someone at least 10 years younger than him. He attended classes for individuals with mental disabilities at El Camino College.
Family members of Thompson , as well as other activists, protested his death at a Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting. Brian Dunn is an attorney with the Cochran Firm who is currently representing the Thompson family. Dunn believes the actions of the LA Sheriff's Department were off base from start to finish.
“In a civilian neighborhood, they bring an urban assault vehicle,” Dunn told the Huffington Post. “The BearCat, it’s like a tank. Their response to this situation was so aggressive. Their tactics were so aggressive.”
He also believes the officials who shot Thompson did not act appropriately to deescalate the situation.
“The result is that we have an unarmed individual, who had committed no crime, who once again has been the victim of a law enforcement homicide,” Dunn said.
The fact is that Thompson, an innocent man with no criminal record, was confused for Alexander, a man with a rap sheet that goes back to 2009. The system failed Thompson and his family, who are now desperately searching for justice. Thompson’s family plans to file lawsuit alleging wrongful death in deputy-involved shooting in Compton.
(Photo: AP Photo/Nick Ut)