“Pregnant Woman Mistaken for Shoplifter Killed in Officer-Involved Shooting”

By | August 16, 2023

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The family of a pregnant woman who was mistakenly identified as a shoplifter and killed in a shooting is suing the Arvada Police Department officers involved. The lawsuit claims that the officer fired eight shots at the woman, Destinee Thompson, while she was driving away from them. The officers had mistaken Thompson for the shoplifter and allegedly blocked her in before opening fire. The shooting was deemed justified by the 1st Judicial District Attorney, but the family’s lawyers argue that the officers should be held accountable for Thompson’s death. Wilson Beese (9NEWS) reported

The Arvada Police Department is facing a lawsuit filed by the family of a pregnant woman, Destinee Thompson, who was mistakenly identified as a shoplifter and fatally shot by Officer Anthony Benallo in August 2021. The lawsuit alleges that Thompson was driving away from the officer and other officers when she was shot by one of the eight bullets fired at her. The incident occurred after police wrongly identified Thompson as the shoplifter involved in a Target store incident where the suspect had also threatened people with a knife. However, Thompson was not involved in the incident. The lawsuit, filed by the law firm Rathod Mohamedbahi LLC on behalf of Thompson’s family, highlights that she was pregnant at the time of her death.

According to a decision letter from 1st Judicial District Attorney Alexis King, who deemed the shooting justified, a witness had mistakenly identified Thompson as the shoplifter. When officers approached Thompson in a motel lobby, she walked out to the parking lot and got into a minivan. The officers then surrounded her vehicle and attempted to force open its doors, with one officer even shattering the passenger window with his police baton. In fear, Thompson tried to back out of her parking space, but the officers had blocked her exit. She then drove forward over a curb, heading towards the road. At this point, Officer Benallo opened fire on the minivan, firing a total of eight shots. Unfortunately, the final shot struck Thompson, killing her and her unborn son. However, at the time of the fatal shot, Thompson had already moved approximately 25 yards away from the officers and posed no risk to anyone.

The decision letter concluded that Officer Benallo had a reasonable belief that his fellow officers were in danger and acted accordingly. It stated that Benallo mistakenly believed that the plain-clothed officer had been struck by Thompson’s minivan and that others were likely to be hit as well. This misconception led Benallo to use deadly force. The letter emphasized that Benallo’s focus on the perceived threat prevented him from realizing that the plain-clothed officer was unharmed. It also mentioned that a “reasonable person” would have believed that the use of deadly force was necessary to prevent immediate harm to other officers.

In light of these findings, the decision letter stated that Officer Benallo could not be charged with a crime as there was no evidence to prove a legally unjustified homicide. The family’s lawyers expressed their disagreement with the police department’s determination that Officer Benallo’s actions were “proper” and called for accountability for Thompson’s death. The lawsuit seeks justice for Thompson’s family and aims to demonstrate that unjustified killings by law enforcement officers will not be tolerated in Colorado.

The incident has sparked an investigation into the actions of the Arvada Police Department, raising concerns about the need for better protection of civilians and a shift towards prioritizing public safety over the police force’s image..

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