The family of a pregnant woman who died after being shot by police in Colorado two years ago after they mistook her for an armed shoplifting suspect is suing the officers involved in the wrongful killing.
It was on August 17, 2021 when 27-year-old Destinee Thompson was shot and killed by officers with the Arvada Police Department.
NBC News reported that as the pregnant mother of three was leaving her motel that day to get lunch with her stepmother, she was suddenly surrounded by several officers who told her they were looking for a white or Latina woman who had stolen a cart full of merchandise from Target and was armed with a knife.
The family’s suit states that the robbery suspect was wearing a white tank top and had a chest tattoo and fled to the motel after the theft. She had also stolen items from the same store two days prior to that day’s theft.
Thompson was wearing a white tank that day, but she did not have a chest tattoo.
Thompson repeatedly told the officers that she wasn’t the suspect and got into her minivan while the officers still surrounded her. The encounter started to escalate when the officers surrounded her car, yelled at her, and then shattered a passenger window.
Frightened by the encounter, Thompson backed out of her motel parking space and attempted to drive toward the road. No officers were hurt, but she wasn’t able to drive far before Officer Anthony Benallo opened fire. One of his eight shots killed Thompson and her unborn child.
“Officer Benallo’s decision to kill Ms. Thompson was patently unreasonable,” the family said in the lawsuit. “The defendant officers detained an innocent woman, shattered the window of her car, and ultimately shot and killed her as she drove away.”
The lawsuit also named Arvada Officers C.J. Bickmore, Chris Dennehy, and Ian Gohlke, as well as Sgt. Jeff Orndoff as defendants.
The Arvada Police Department released details about what happened in the incident.
They said that Thompson did not have her ID on her when officers asked for it, but repeatedly told them that she was not the suspect. She ran toward her van and once she was inside, she talked to them through her window.
It wasn’t until Thompson backed out of her parking space and hit a police vehicle parked right behind her that the police assumed she hit an officer and posed a threat. Authorities say that’s why Officer Benallo opened fire.
After authorities turned over their findings of an investigation into the shooting to the district attorney’s office, the district attorney decided not to press charges in April 2022.
“I find that the officer’s use of deadly physical force was legally justified to defend himself and others from the threat posed,” District Attorney Alexis King wrote.
An autopsy revealed that Thompson died from a gunshot wound. Methamphetamine, fentanyl, morphine, and amphetamine were also found in her system.
Her family believes that police worked to undermine justice after the killing by releasing the incident report nearly a year after it happened.
“This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with,” Thompson’s father, Francis Thompson said. “I want their badges. I want justice. I don’t think it’s fair that the officers are still working without punishment. I wish I could tell her one more time that I love her, and I’ll never stop fighting for her. I’m not gonna let go.”