The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has released the body camera footage and audio of the deputy-involved shooting of Thomas Phan on Nov. 16, 2022.
Phan, 40, 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 Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station were attempting to locate a suspect in connection with a reported burglary.
It should be noted that some official documents, such as a report made by the L.A. County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner, spell Phan’s name as both “Phan” and “Pham.” Phan is more frequently used and is the spelling used in the LASD video.
Two 911 calls that first reported the suspected burglary at a restaurant on the 23000 block of Valencia Boulevard were included in the “Critical Incident Briefing” video — which was posted to YouTube by LASD on March 10. During the investigation following Phan’s death, it was later found that he was not the suspect deputies were looking for.
The first caller reported “a homeless man smashing the store windows.” The names of both the caller, and the specific location he was reporting from, were redacted from the video. The caller described the man as wearing dark blue jeans and a black hoodie. The caller said the man “threw a pipe at the window and it went through the window.”
The second caller stated they were at a shop next door and witnessed someone breaking windows. Deputies then dispatched a 459, or burglary, call.
The video then plays the interaction between the deputies who first contacted Phan and the dispatcher. They reported that a person with a knife was being detained at gunpoint on the South Fork Trail behind a car dealership — the name of which was redacted — before the video transitioned to the bodycam footage of when deputies first contacted Phan.
In the video, Phan could be seen clutching what appears to be a knife in front of a concrete wall as a deputy points his gun at Phan. The deputy pleaded with Phan to put down the knife.
“Sir, put the knife down. Please put the knife down, alright? Or prone out,” said the deputy. “Get on the ground, down on the ground. Let us figure everything out, OK buddy? Please put the knife down.”
As deputies continued their callouts, Phan began to reach inside of what appeared to be a plastic bag on the ground. A deputy demanded Phan “stop reaching for stuff.”
Phan continued to pick up the bag, and a tarp on the ground beneath him, before attempting to leave toward the trail. Another deputy called out, “Drop the knife, or you’re going to get shot, drop the knife.”
Deputies then deployed a taser on Phan, which had no effect due to his thick jacket. Phan hopped over a wooden fence and into the riverbed — at which point the deputies set up a containment of the area with the assistance of an airship.
After searching for Phan on foot for just over a half-hour, deputies located him in the riverbed armed with two knives. As they searched, one deputy could be heard saying, “Tasers aren’t going to work, he’s got a jacket on, we tased him already.”
What happened next, happened fast.
Once deputies found Phan in a clearing, several deputies yelled, “Put the knife down” and other similar commands. When Phan did not comply, one deputy deployed a taser. Phan then swung the knife in his right hand in an upward motion and deputies opened fire. Two knives with approximately 4-inch blades were later recovered from the scene.
A total of 10 shots were fired, according to a report made by the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner, 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. According to the toxicology report, Phan had no drugs or alcohol in his system at the time of his death.
Homicide detectives are still investigating Phan’s death. As they do so, investigators, and attorneys, with the L.A. County District Attorney’s office conduct their own independent review. Once this is completed, the report is presented to the DA’s Justice System Integrity Division so they can determine if the force used was within the law.
Following this, LASD’s Internal Affairs Bureau will complete an administrative investigation of the incident. Then, its Executive Force Review Committee will evaluate the performance of the deputies and determine if their tactics and use of deadly force were within policy.
The LASD video can be found at www.youtube.com/watch?v=wr1XcCLn0NA. It contains scenes viewers may find disturbing, so viewer discretion is advised.