The recently released autopsy report of Thomas Phan, a 40-year-old homeless man shot and killed by deputies with the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station on Nov. 16, provided new details surrounding his death.
Phan was killed in the Santa Clara riverbed near the intersection of Bridgeport Lane and Island Road at approximately 10:45 p.m., as deputies from the SCV Sheriff’s Station were attempting to locate a suspect in connection with a reported burglary, according to a narrative based on an investigation spearheaded by the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department Homicide Division.
The suspected burglary took place at a restaurant on the 23000 block of Valencia Boulevard. “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. The autopsy report’s narrative, prepared by the L.A. County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner — which lists its source of information as LASD’s Homicide Division — said deputies observed two knives as Phan approached them, one of which had its blade out, while the other was folded.
Both the LASD narrative and the coroner’s narrative, based on information from LASD Detectives Choi and Blagg, say an airship was called in to assist in finding Phan.
According to LASD’s November narrative, deputies then told Phan to put down the knife, but he “did not comply.” Deputies then attempted to tase him, but it “had no effect.” The coroner’s narrative does not mention this first attempt to tase Phan, but said Phan was “not obeying the deputy’s commands and headed towards the riverbed.”
Both narratives say Phan fled into the nearby riverbed following contact with deputies and that an airship then assisted in locating Phan.
Once Phan was located in the riverbed, both narratives say deputies attempted to tase Phan — possibly for the second time — but missed. The coroner’s narrative states that taser probes were found lodged in a stick.
LASD’s November narrative stated Phan “raised the knives in a throwing motion toward the deputies and a deputy-involved shooting occurred.”
A total of 10 shots were fired, according to the coroner’s report, three of which struck Phan in the arm, thigh and head.
Deputies tended to Phan by placing tourniquets on his arm and leg, according to the coroner’s narrative. EKG was administered by paramedics with the Los Angeles County Fire Department. Phan was pronounced dead at the scene at 10:42 p.m.
Phan was later found to not be the suspect deputies were searching for in connection with the possible burglary.
At the time of his death, Phan had no drugs or alcohol in his system, according to his toxicology report.
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.
In January, LASD stated that until JSID’s review is done, 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 within 180 days of the letter to The Signal on Jan. 17.