FARMINGTON — The family of a man shot and killed by a deputy in July has filed two lawsuits against the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office, arguing Shawn Thomas was not armed when a deputy shot him multiple times.
The lawsuits dispute the narrative of events released by the law enforcement agency, which told the public Thomas possibly had a replica firearm which was destroyed in a vehicle fire after the shooting.
Matilda Clah, Thomas’ mother, on Jan. 6 filed a lawsuit against the Sheriff’s Office and the San Juan County Board of Commissioners in state district court and New Mexico federal court, according to copies of the lawsuits provided by the Guebert Gentile & Piazza law firm representing the Thomas family.
The San Juan County Sheriff’s Office declined to comment on the lawsuits, citing pending litigation, according to spokesperson Kristi Hughes.
Matilda seeks an unspecified amount of damages in each lawsuit.
The Sheriff’s Office has previously released information on the case, stating the shooting happened while they pursued Thomas after he fled a potential gun crime in Shiprock.
Law enforcement were pursuing Thomas eastbound on U.S. Highway 64 after he allegedly pulled a handgun on a person at a Shiprock gas station. He crossed into the Sheriff’s Office jurisdiction during the pursuit.
Thomas was driving a blue Toyota Corolla which was reported stolen. Deputies pursued Thomas along the highway when he stopped in the highway's median.
The Sheriff’s Office said in August that a deputy saw a firearm in Thomas' hand pointed in the direction of his sergeant and the deputy fired upon Thomas.
The vehicle then traveled off the roadway and crashed near a tree, catching fire after Thomas was removed from the car.
Lawsuit disputes narrative of law enforcement shooting
Thomas’ mother accuses the deputies of wrongful death, negligence and violation of her son’s civil rights in the July 11 incident, according to the lawsuits.
Both lawsuits argue against the narrative of events that the Sheriff’s Office has released following the incident.
Thomas’ mother claims Deputy Jon Gonzales used excessive force in the unjustified killing of her son, arguing the deputy has no probable cause to believe her son was a serious threat of harm to himself or others.
Gonzales allegedly shot Thomas four times, striking his neck and head, according to court documents.
Sgt. Colt Kalcich is identified as the sergeant the Sheriff’s Office says Thomas pointed the handgun at.
The complaint alleges that Kalcich saw Thomas throw something from the vehicle during the pursuit before the shooting, which led to Kalcich advising others to “stop and get the gun,” according to the court documents.
The lawsuit claims all law enforcement had been advised a firearm was no longer in the vehicle.
Gonzales reportedly approached Thomas in the vehicle with his firearm drawn as Kalcich approached with his stun gun drawn.
The complaint alleges Gonzales did not have a clear view of Thomas, as he was standing behind the vehicle and could not see if he had a gun or not.
The complaint also claims there was no evidence of a gun present on Thomas or his vehicle as no gun, gun parts, bullets or casings were found during the investigation.
The Sheriff’s Office in August said investigators believe Thomas had a replica firearm, an “airsoft type gun” allegedly used in a June 20 aggravated assault case in Farmington.
Investigators found the contents of the Toyota including the “firearm” were destroyed in the vehicle fire.
Joshua Kellogg covers breaking news for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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This article originally appeared on Farmington Daily Times: Family of man shot, killed by deputy files wrongful death lawsuit