Tommy Le, 20, was fatally shot after deputies responded to reports of a man armed with a knife threatening residents of a Burien neighborhood. Deputies found Le was carrying a pen after the shooting. “I’m so angry,” his father says.
When Tommy Le’s photo appeared in the screen during the slideshow fellow graduates cheered and hollered.
The 20-year-old and about 45 fellow students had just graduated from Career Link, an alternative high-school completion program at South Seattle College.
But they also didn’t understand why the wide-smiling, cheerful Le wasn’t at the June 14 celebration, and missing a high point in his life.
They were unaware that Le had been shot and killed by a King County sheriff’s deputy hours earlier.
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Around midnight, three deputies were summoned by several 911 calls about a man with a sharp object, maybe a knife, threatening people in the 13600 block of Third Avenue South in Burien. One homeowner told dispatchers he had fired his handgun into the ground, hoping to scare off the man — later identified as Le.
When Le continued to approach, the homeowner fled back inside his house. Le, who was barefoot, then pounded on the door and stabbed it, screaming he was “the Creator,” according to the King County Sheriff’s Office.
Deputies confronted Le, who refused commands to drop “what they thought was a knife,” said sheriff’s spokeswoman Sgt. Cindi West. Two deputies fired their Tasers, with one of them hitting Le. But it had no effect, she said.
When Le reportedly moved toward deputies, a deputy shot him three times. He died at Harborview Medical Center.
It wasn’t until more than a week later that the Sheriff’s Office reported Le had a pen, not a knife, in his hand when he was shot. The Sheriff’s Office said a search of the Burien home Le shared with other people turned up knives and detectives were trying to determine whether one was used in the earlier attacks.
The shooting is under investigation by the sheriff’s Major Crimes Unit.
Teachers, family and friends are still grappling with news of Le’s death and how uncharacteristic it was for the young man to threaten anyone, let alone be involved in an altercation.
They said he had shown no signs of mental illness or violence. He didn’t have a criminal record.
Teachers describe Le as a “goofy, little guy,” who was “always smiling.”