The family of a pregnant mother of three who was shot and killed by Colorado police after they mistook her for a shoplifting suspect has filed a lawsuit against the department two years after her death.
Destinee Thompson, 27, was fatally shot by officers with the Arvada Police Department in August 2021. CBS News reported her family filed a wrongful death and excessive force lawsuit on Tuesday.
The complaint comes over a year after the district attorney decided not to press charges against five officers who were present at the time of her death.
“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 in an April 2022 letter, according to Atlanta Black Star.
Destinee’s father, Francis Thompson, said he plans to seek justice against the police officers who seemingly were threatened by her during the altercation.
“I want their badges,” Francis told CBS News. “She’s 5-foot tall, seven months pregnant. … You’re a grown man and you’re threatened by that? You don’t deserve to be able to wear a badge.”
He continued: “She was scared and trying to leave the area. And she was murdered, plain and simple.”
The incident happened on Aug. 17, 2021, when Arvada police responded to a call about a woman who reportedly stole items from a local Target and threatened an employee with a knife. They arrived at a motel where the suspect had stayed and thought Destinee fit the description.
Police searched the building for a white or Hispanic woman wearing a white tank top with a chest tattoo. According to the suit, Destinee was leaving the same hotel when several officers surrounded her in the parking lot.
While Destinee was wearing a white tank top, she didn’t have a chest tattoo that matched the robbery suspect. The complaint states that officers knew she didn’t completely fit the description but wanted to rule Destinee out as a suspect.
Destinee told police she was not the person they were looking for and kept walking. Officers then demanded she stop and show them her ID, and the 27-year-old said she didn’t have ID to show them, per CBS News.
The situation escalated after Destinee, sitting in her minivan, was surrounded by five officers who demanded she leave the vehicle. She then locked the doors and refused when one officer in plain clothes used a baton to shatter the passenger window.
Destinee was startled by what happened and quickly backed the car up and hit a police car parked behind her. Police initially thought she had hit an officer and posed an imminent threat against them.
“Someone in plainclothes busted open the window. That’s terrifying — and here you are, a pregnant woman,” Carmela Delgado, Destinee’s stepmother, told CBS News.
One officer, Anthony Benallo, fired eight shots into the car, striking Destinee and her unborn child. The family’s lawyer, Siddhartha Rathod, called out the other officers at the scene.
“Not a single one of the other officers thought it was necessary to shoot,” Rathod said, according to CBS News. “This is a murder of a pregnant woman.”
Destinee’s family said her race significantly affected her being targeted by police. The 27-year-old was half Hispanic and half Native American.
“If this was a affluent white person getting into her vehicle, they would never have stopped her,” Rathod said.
Police spokesperson Dave Snelling said officers were justified in their position to use deadly force against Destinee and stood by their actions.
“Thompson unfortunately chose to engage in conduct that the officer reasonably believed posed an imminent threat to the life of another officer,” he wrote. “He chose to use deadly force to stop that threat.”
Destinee’s family also stated that police were trying to use her past to justify her death. At the time, she had multiple warrants for her arrest and an autopsy revealed she had Methamphetamine, fentanyl, morphine and amphetamine in her system, Atlanta Black Star reported.
“I don’t think it’s fair that the officers are still working without punishment,” Francis said, according to Atlanta Black Star. “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.”