UNITED STATES NEWS

Police who fatally shot a pregnant woman are sued by her family in Colorado

Aug 16, 2023, 4:41 PM

DENVER (AP) — Destinee Thompson was supposed to be on her way to lunch with her stepmother in August 2021 when Colorado police, mistaking her for a robbery suspect, fatally shot the pregnant mother as she fled in her minivan.

Frustrated by the district attorney’s decision last year not to charge the officers, Thompson’s family filed a wrongful death and excessive force lawsuit on Tuesday against five officers from the Denver suburb of Arvada who were present when she was killed.

“I want their badges,” said Francis Thompson, Destinee’s father. “She’s 5-foot tall, seven months pregnant. … You’re a grown man and you’re threatened by that? You don’t deserve to be able to wear a badge.”

They allege Destinee Thompson’s race — she’s part Hispanic and part Native American — played a role in her being targeted. Officers were looking for a suspect described as white or Hispanic.

“If this was a affluent white person getting into her vehicle, they would never have stopped her,” said Siddhartha Rathod, an attorney representing her family.

In a statement Wednesday, the Arvada Police Department said the family’s lawyer has mischaracterized the events surrounding Thompson’s death, and the agency plans to mount a vigorous legal defense.

Police spokesperson Dave Snelling said the officers were justified in using deadly force because they believed Thompson’s actions posed an imminent threat.

The episode took place on Aug. 17, 2021, when officers responded to a report of a woman who had stolen from a Target and brandished a knife at an employee. A witness followed the suspect to a nearby motel, where police arrived. Thompson was leaving that same motel to meet her stepmother, according to the lawsuit, which was first reported by The Denver Post.

While the description of the suspect included a white tank top — which Thompson was wearing — it also specified a chest tattoo, which Thompson did not have.

Officers noted that she didn’t exactly match the description but decided to stop her to rule her out, according to the lawsuit. Thompson kept walking when police asked her to stop, told them she wasn’t the person they were looking for, and said she didn’t have an ID to show them.

The police spokesperson said the officers had “reasonable suspicion” to believe Thompson may have been involved in the robbery and were therefore justified in contacting her.

Thompson’s family strongly disagrees.

“She’s done nothing wrong … and she is confronted by these policemen and doesn’t want to talk to them,” Rathod said. “You have the right not to talk to police.”

Thompson, sitting in her minivan and surrounded by five officers, locked the doors and refused to get out, repeating, “It wasn’t me,” the district attorney wrote in the 2022 letter explaining their decision not to charge the officers.

One officer smashed the passenger window with a baton, and Thompson backed the car up, hitting a police vehicle parked behind her. She then drove forward over the curb and onto the road.

One officer began shooting, according to the district attorney’s letter, because he believed another officer was struck by the car or being dragged under it, and eventually shot and killed Thompson. Her unborn child also died.

Thompson’s family alleges the officer who fired could see that the other officer hadn’t been hit or dragged by the car.

“Not a single one of the other officers thought it was necessary to shoot,” added Rathod in an interview. “This is a murder of a pregnant woman.”

Snelling, the police spokesperson, said the department stands behind its officers’ actions.

“Thompson unfortunately chose to engage in conduct that the officer reasonably believed posed an imminent threat to the life of another officer,” Snelling wrote. “He chose to use deadly force to stop that threat.”

Snelling added that the agency later discovered Thompson had warrants out for her arrest and the autopsy found illicit drugs in her system.

Rathod and Francis Thompson dismissed the police mention of those warrants, saying it doesn’t justify the officers’ actions and that police at the scene didn’t know about her background during the interaction.

“All they knew was this woman didn’t fit the description of the shoplifting suspect,” Rathod said.

For Francis Thompson, who described his daughter as eager to help others and quick with a laugh, it feels like the police department is using Destinee’s past to justify her death.

The grief hasn’t abated, he said. Every day there are moments when he cries, he said. “It’s hard for me to find a purpose in a lot of things anymore.”

___

Bedayn is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

United States News

Associated Press

Vehicle crashes into building where birthday party held, injuring children and adults, sheriff says

BERLIN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — A vehicle drove through a boat club building where a children’s birthday celebration was taking place Saturday, seriously injuring a number of children and adults, a Michigan sheriff said in a news release. The victims were taken to several area hospitals after the crash that occurred at about 3 p.m. […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

3 hospitalized after knife attack on party boat in New York City, along East River in Brooklyn

NEW YORK (AP) — A knife attack on a crowded party boat at a New York City pier Saturday resulted in the hospitalization of three people, police said. A 911 call came in around 5 p.m. reporting the assault along the East River near 58th Street and the Brooklyn Army Terminal warehouse, Detective Sophia Mason […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Autoworkers union celebrates breakthrough win in Tennessee and takes aim at more plants in the South

DALLAS (AP) — The United Auto Workers’ overwhelming election victory at a Volkswagen plant in Tennessee is giving the union hope that it can make broader inroads in the South, the least unionized part of the country. The UAW won a stunning 73% of the vote at VW after losing elections in 2014 and 2019. […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

Conditions improve for students shot in Maryland park on ‘senior skip day’

GREENBELT, Md. (AP) — Three of the five youths shot in a suburban Washington, D.C., park during a high school “senior skip day” gathering have been released from the hospital, while the condition of the most seriously injured has improved, authorities said Saturday. Police in Greenbelt, Maryland, are asking the public to share video footage […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

New York lawmakers pass $237 billion budget addressing housing construction and migrants

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York lawmakers passed a $237 billion state budget Saturday that includes plans to spur housing construction and combat unlicensed marijuana stores. The package also includes a raft of other measures ranging from expediting the closure of some state prisons, addressing the recent influx of migrants, and continuing the pandemic-era policy […]

6 hours ago

SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO - DECEMBER 9, 2019: A copy of the record album, 'Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison'...

Associated Press

Record Store Day celebrates indie retail music sellers as they ride vinyl’s popularity wave

Record Store Day, a holiday invented at a gathering of independent record store owners and employees in 2007, will be observed Saturday.

9 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines can get you smoothly from Phoenix to Frankfurt on new A330-900neo airplane

Adventure Awaits! And there's no better way to experience the vacation of your dreams than traveling with Condor Airlines.

...

COLLINS COMFORT MASTERS

Here are 5 things Arizona residents need to know about their HVAC system

It's warming back up in the Valley, which means it's time to think about your air conditioning system's preparedness for summer.

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Day & Night is looking for the oldest AC in the Valley

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.

Police who fatally shot a pregnant woman are sued by her family in Colorado