Fatal Willowbrook deputy shooting: Jury awards $7.5 million to family

WILLOWBROOK, LOS ANGELES

Robert Thomas Jr., 21, was fatally shot by an L.A. County Sheriff's deputy on the night of November 8, 2010, near Wilmington Avenue and East 123rd Street in unincorporated Willowbrook.

The seven-man, five-woman jury deliberated for more than two days before finding for the Thomas family.

The sheriff's department said Thomas was acting suspiciously near a party and ran away when deputies tried to talk to him. The department said Thomas reached for a handgun in his pocket, and deputies shot him. Thomas was hospitalized and died. At the time of the shooting, the sheriff's department said Thomas was a known gang member.

"It feels great for it to be proven that my son was never a gang member," said Robert Thomas Sr.

The family attorney said Friday the jury rejected a deputy's claim Thomas was armed.

A sheriff's department spokesman said the department would appeal the decision. Steve Whitmore said a gun was recovered in the case and had been shown to the jury during the trial.

Friday's award is the result of a civil suit, not a criminal case. The family plans to ask the L.A. County and U.S. district attorneys to reopen the case.

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