A city in the suburbs of San Francisco has released surveillance footage showing the moment an off-duty police officer shot dead a man who pulled a gun on him dfuring an argument over a parking space.
Video from four surveillance cameras show the deadly confrontation between Sgt Virgil Thomas, of the Richmond Police Department, and Eric Reason, a 38-year-old construction worker and father of six, in Vallejo on November 10, 2019.
The recordings, which do not have audio, show Thomas, driving a Mercedes sedan, and Reason, driving a dark-colored van, coverging on the same parking space outside JJ’s Fish and Chicken at a strip mall.
A dispute over a parking spot in Vallejo, California, on November 10, 2019, led to an off-duty cop shooting and killing the driver of this dark-colored van
Sgt Virgil Thomas, of Richmond police, driving a Mercedes pulled into an empty spot in the parking lot on Fairgrounds Drive first
Eric Reason (pictured in a white T-shirt) stopped in the middle of the lot, got out of his van and confronted Thomas (pictured in a black T-shirt)
A bystander blocks Reason’s path, allowing Thomas to get into the spot first.
Reason pulls over behind Thomas, emerges from the van and walks up to the off-duty cop to confront him.
The two men face off against one another and exchange words for a few seconds, before Reason turns around and returns to his van.
Thomas proceeds to walk in the direction of a store, but turns around and observes Reason retrieve a rag containing a gun from the hood of his vehicle.
The construction worker then makes his way toward Thomas, gun in hand, and says something to him.
As he turns around to walk away, Thomas pulls his own gun from his pants and opens fire.
Sgt Thomas has served on the force in Richmond for 23 years. Reason, 38, was an aspiring rapper and construction worker from Vallejo
Videos released this week show the two men faced off against one another and had words
Surveillance video shows Reason grabbing something from the hood of his van, which police later said was a semi-automatic handgun
Reason went back to confront Thomas with the item said to be a gun in his hand. Opinions differ on whether or not he pointed the purported gun at the cop
Thomas pulls a gun from his pants and opens fire on Reason. The construction worker takes off running, but the off-duty cop continues shooting at him
Reason tries to run away, but Thomas aims his gun at the fleeing man and fires several shots.
One of the rounds apparently strikes the suspect in the back of the head, causing him to collapse dead on Sereno Drive.
The deadly shooting has sparked protests in the city and prompted Reason’s family to consider pursuing legal action over Thomas’ use of deadly force against a fleeing suspect.
Following the release of the videos, Melissa Nold, an attorney representing Reason’s mother, issued a statement calling the shooting a ‘cold-blooded murder’ and questioning why Thomas was never arrested, reported Mercury News.
Thomas’ attorney, Justin Buffington, stated that the decorated 23-year veteran on the force, who until November 10 had never fired his service weapon, ‘had no other choice’ but to resort to deadly force against Reason, whom he described as an ‘irate convicted felon,’ after trying and failing to deescalate the situation.
Another camera shows the man running for his life across Sereno Drive
He collapses in the street after allegedly being shot in the back of the head and dies
‘Reason boxed Sgt. Thomas and his wife’s car in, retrieved a semi-automatic handgun with a 30-round magazine from its hiding place under the hood and confronted Sgt. Thomas and his wife,’ the lawyer said in his written statement.
‘Although Reason fled when he realized that he had attempted to attack someone capable of protecting himself, he refused to drop his gun and, in fact, continuing to present a deadly threat.’
Thomas has been placed on administrative leave, and the incident remains under investigation by the Solano County District Attorney.
Both the Vallejo Police Department and the Richmond police union have come out in support of the sergeant, arguing that he acted in self-defense.
‘The video clearly reinforces that unfortunately, a firearm was introduced unnecessarily by Mr. Reason. Regrettably, this placed Sgt. Thomas in a position where he was forced to protect himself and the public,’ union president Ben Therriault stated.
Thomas was placed on leave but was never arrested. His lawyer said he had never fired a gun before the incident involving Reason, whom he described as an ‘irate convicted felon’
Nold, the civil rights attorney retained by Reason’s family, pushed back against that narrative, claiming that it is difficult to clearly see the object in the man’s hand, and there is no indication he pointed a gun at Thomas.
The lawyer previously raised concerns about a photo that circulated on social media in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, showing Thomas standing over Reason’s body with his cellphone in hand. Nold suggested that the cop had not been sequestered as required by department rules.
Reason was an aspiring rapper who performed under the stage name ‘Cheddaman’ and was featured on the 2009 album ‘Country Club Crest: 3 C’s Down.’
The 38-year-old grew up in Vallejo and worked construction to support his six children.
Reason’s mother, Stephanie Bass, described her son as ‘an awesome young man’ who did not deserve to die the way he did.