New details emerge in deputy-involved shooting of homeless man

The Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station on Golden Valley Road.
The Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station on Golden Valley Road.
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New details have emerged in the deputy-involved shooting and killing of 40-year-old Thomas Phan on Nov. 16 in Valencia.  

The following are accounts and information provided by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, according to a written incident summary as a result of an investigation spearheaded by its homicide division.  

Phan, a homeless man, was killed in the Santa Clara riverbed near the intersection of Bridgeport Lane and Island Road at approximately 10:25 p.m., as deputies from the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station were attempting to locate a suspect in connection with a reported burglary. 

The suspected burglary took place at a restaurant on the 23000 block of Valencia Boulevard — the specific location or name of the restaurant was not specified.  

“Additional information” described the suspect as a man wearing a black hoodie and dark blue jeans, last seen walking southbound on Valencia Boulevard toward Creekside Road. Deputies believed a man, Phan, matched this description and contacted him on the 23000 block of Creekside Road.  

The narrative stated that, upon contact, Phan produced a knife. Deputies then told Phan to put down the knife, but he “did not comply.” They deployed a taser but stated it had no effect and that Phan then fled on foot, northbound, through the Santa Clara riverbed and out of view.  

Deputies then coordinated a containment of the area and called an airship to assist. Upon searching the riverbed, they found Phan, “who was armed with two knives, one in each hand.” Phan was instructed to put the knives down, but again “did not comply,” according to the narrative.  

The narrative then says deputies again tased him but that, again, “it had no effect” and that Phan “raised the knives in a throwing motion toward the deputies.” Phan was then shot and killed by two deputies. Two folding knives “with approximate 4-inch blades” were recovered at the scene.  

Lt. Patricia Thomas, a homicide division detective handling the case, said the investigation is ongoing and that no further information will be released to the public until it is concluded. This includes whether anyone was arrested in connection with the initial call for response — the suspected burglary at an undisclosed restaurant — as Phan was later found not to be the suspect.  

Out of the seven items The Signal requested under the California Public Records Act (police/deputy report of the incident, bodycam footage and audio of the event, audio of the original call reporting the burglary, the names of the deputies involved, and further details into the investigation) only one item was provided — pending the conclusion of the Sheriff’s Department’s criminal investigation and a review done by the District Attorney’s Justice System Integrity Division.  

LASD stated that until JSID’s review is done with, further details surrounding Phan’s death will have to wait.  

“Disclosure of the requested records before JSID’s review of this matter is complete would substantially interfere with the investigation and/or criminal enforcement proceeding by the threatening the integrity of the evidence, endangering the safety of victims and witnesses, tainting witnesses and the jury pool, and precluding a fair trial, if an individual is charged with a crime,” read a letter from Capt. Shawnee Hinchman of LASD’s Risk Management Bureau in response to The Signal’s CPRA request.  

Hinchman also stated that LASD was unable to provide a “firm estimate” as to when the investigation will be complete, which is now hinged on JSID’s review, but promised an update in 180 days.  

At the time of this publication, the L.A. County District Attorney’s office has not responded to a request for comment.  

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