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Family questions fatal shooting of Lancaster man by sheriff’s deputy

This map shows where Lancaster is located.
(Los Angeles Times)

A man was fatally shot by a deputy who arrived at his home in Lancaster early Thursday in response to a report of domestic violence, and his family is questioning whether the killing was justified.

Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies responded to the man’s home in the 600 block of West Avenue H12 shortly before 5:30 a.m. Authorities say the man’s fiancee made a call to 911 and later told deputies she was assaulted by the man.

“During the call to 911, she never speaks to the operator but rather the phone line is left open,” Deputy James Nagao wrote in a statement. “For several minutes, arguing and fighting between the caller and the suspect can be heard in the background.”

Deputies attempted to detain the man, but he refused to comply with their orders and an altercation ensued. During the scuffle, the man reached down and attempted to grab a deputy’s firearm, prompting another deputy to open fire, Nagao said.

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The man, who was not identified by authorities, was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

However, the man’s fiancee said her partner never tried to grab one of the deputy’s guns. She told KCBS-TV Channel 2 that her fiance, whom she identified as 62-year-old Michael Thomas, told police from the front door that he had a right to refuse their entry and was attempting to turn away from them when he was shot.

“I heard Michael say, ‘I have a right to not let you in my house,’ ” the fiancee told the station.

The fatal shooting comes as protests across the United States continue over police brutality and officers’ excessive use of force, especially against Black people.

Bradley Gage, an attorney for one of Thomas’ family members, said he has “good evidence that the claim that Mr. Thomas was going for a gun is completely false,” though he declined to elaborate specifically.

“If he wasn’t going for a gun, and the officers are lying about that, why would they be lying?” he said in an interview Friday. “There’s only one logical explanation: They’re trying to cover it up.”

Gage said he believes Thomas’ death “was preventable” and alleged it is another example of unwarranted law enforcement violence against a Black man.

“They broke into a man’s home, early morning, without a warrant, without any evidence of any injuries or harm to the fiancee,” he said. “I don’t think a white person would’ve had their home broken into.”

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The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Homicide Bureau will investigate the shooting.


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