VALLEJO – The Solano County Sheriff’s deputy killing of Jason Thompson on Sunday, June 19 was “excessive” and “overkill,” two eyewitnesses told the Vallejo Sun.
Those witnesses — who spoke to the Sun on the condition of anonymity due to their fear of reprisal for speaking out — said sheriff’s deputies did not try to de-escalate a situation where 28-year-old Thompson appeared to be harming himself with a knife-like instrument before gesturing it towards authorities.
“He was a distraught person. I heard a lot of screaming and crying before the shots were fired,” one witness told the Sun. “It was loud. It was intense. They were challenging and he was crying, screaming. He definitely knew he was in trouble. There's no doubt.”
That witness described the man as appearing “highly agitated, maybe having a mental health issue” as police approached him at Pennsylvania and Sutter streets and ordered him to drop the object he had in his hand.
The witness said deputies were about 10 feet away from the man when he appeared to cut his wrists before “waving” the item at them. Less than 10 seconds later, the witness said, deputies began firing.
According to Solano County District Attorney Krishna Abrams’ office, the Solano County Sheriff’s Office responded to the area around 6:55 p.m., almost an hour and a half after the Vallejo Police Department received several 911 calls about an alleged carjacking at the nearby Curtola Parkway. A witness filming on a cell phone around that time shows a shirtless man running through the Texaco gas station at the corner of Curtola and Sonoma Boulevard.
Sheriff’s deputies responded because Vallejo police requested their help because they had no available units to cover the calls. Staffing shortages have been a continuing problem for Vallejo police in recent months and a source with knowledge of the department’s staffing told the Vallejo Sun that the agency had only three available units for the entire city that evening.
When sheriff’s deputies arrived, Thompson ”was in possession of multiple hand saw blades,” according to the DA’s office.
“After refusing numerous commands to stop advancing towards the deputies, Mr. Thompson still armed continued to advance and a deputy involved shooting occurred,” the DA’s statement on June 20 said.
But the two witnesses say that’s not entirely accurate.
“I didn't see him lunge at them,” one witness said. “I just saw him waving [the items] at them.”
A second witness doubted Thompson was a threat to law enforcement.
“He was doing all he could do to walk,” the second witness said.
The second witness said they saw Thompson slowly walking down the street and then heard shouts of “stop” before deputies fired multiple shots. There was a pause before the second witness said they heard more shots.
The second witness also blamed Vallejo police for not having any officers available prior to the shooting.
“If the cops showed up before shit went down, it might have been different,” the second witness said.
Both witnesses stated that they thought law enforcement should have used non-lethal weapons to subdue Thompson.
“He could have been Tased,” the second witness said. “Their approach seemed a little over zealous.”
“It seemed to me that it was not necessary,” the first witness said. “They could have backed away or used an alternate means of subduing, maybe a Taser or just backing away and maybe regrouping and coming after, you know, getting subdued a different way. It just seemed to me that it was overkill.”
Thompson died of multiple gunshot wounds at a nearby hospital.
The DA’s office did not respond to a request for comment regarding the witnesses’ version of events.
Thompson’s sister, Nicole Thompson of Sacramento, set up a GoFundMe for her brother to help “lay him to rest in the right way.” As of Thursday, the family has raised $1,630 of their $4,000 goal.
The GoFundMe says Thompson returned to his family, including his wife and daughter, in February, when he was released after serving eight years in jail and prison.
Court records show Thompson was sentenced to 11 years after pleading no contest to a homicide charge in September 2016 for the fatal shooting of 27-year-old Gustavo Banda in April 2014. Thompson’s defense attorney at the time, Tim Pori, said the shooting was in self-defense. A 15-year-old boy was also wounded in the shooting.
The DA’s office said the Solano County Major Crimes Task Force responded to the scene to conduct an investigation into the police killing. The task force was created in the wake of the June 2020 Vallejo police killing of 22-year-old Sean Monterrosa.
Citing “the nature of the ongoing investigation,” the DA’s office said no other details would be released.
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THE VALLEJO SUN NEWSLETTER
Investigative reporting, regular updates, events and more
- Solano County Sheriff's Office
- Vallejo Police Department
- Jason Thompson
- Solano County District Attorney's Office
- Nicole Thompson
- Tim Pori
Brian Krans is a reporter in the East Bay who covers public health, from cops to COVID. He has written for the Oaklandside, Healthline, California Healthline and the Appeal.
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