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Man who saw brother’s shooting settles lawsuit


Lancaster incident occurred in June 2020

A man who witnessed his brother being shot by sheriff’s deputies investigating a 2020 domestic violence call in Lancaster has settled his lawsuit against Los Angeles County alleging negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Plaintiff James Thomas filed court papers on Friday, Nov. 17, with Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Theresa M. Traber stating that an “unconditional” accord was reached, but no terms were divulged. Thomas began representing himself in the case last December.

James Thomas is the brother of the late 62-year-old Michael Thomas. According to the lawsuit, deputies entered Michael Thomas’ home at about 5:20 a.m. on June 11, 2020. Michael Thomas was disabled with missing fingers on one hand, the suit stated. The deputies maintained they were responding to a domestic violence report, but no such event had occurred and Michael Thomas asked them to leave, the suit brought in April 2021 stated. However, the deputies accosted Michael Thomas and shot the unarmed man, who posed no danger to them, according to the suit, which further states that James Thomas “witnessed his brother dying.”

Deputies said previously that Michael Thomas’ girlfriend called 911 to report the domestic violence incident, but never spoke to the operator. She left the phone line open and several minutes of arguing and fighting between the caller and the suspect could be heard in the background, the department said. Then Michael Thomas’ girlfriend later gave a recorded statement to deputies in which she confirmed she had placed the 911 call and had been assaulted by the suspect, the LASD said.

“When deputies arrived, they made contact with the suspect inside the location and attempted to detain him for a domestic violence investigation,” a sheriff’s department statement said. “The suspect refused to comply with the (deputies’) orders, and an altercation between the deputies and the suspect ensued.

“During the altercation, the suspect reached down and attempted to gain control of one of the deputy’s firearm,” the statement said. “It was at that time when a deputy-involved shooting occurred.”

Thomas died at an area hospital. No deputies were injured.