Vallejo police said today a preliminary investigation suggests an off-duty Richmond police sergeant was justified in fatally shooting an armed Eric Reason in a shopping center parking lot in Vallejo on Sunday, Nov. 10.
The police version of events, however, is being disputed by the civil rights attorney representing Reason’s family, who says witnesses state Reason was fatally shot as he ran from Thomas.
According to the police version of events, officers responded to the strip mall in the 500 block of Fairgrounds Drive on a report of a shooting at about 5:25 p.m.
At the time, Reason, a father and known rapper who worked construction, was driving away from the gas pumps at the Valero gas station at the strip mall when off-duty Richmond police Sgt. Virgil Thomas, a 27-year veteran who was driving his personal vehicle, pulled into the parking lot of the shopping complex with his wife as a passenger.
“The two vehicles momentarily stopped while facing one another and Sgt. Thomas honked his car horn to audibly warn the other driver of his immediate presence,” police said.
The police statement said Reason stopped his vehicle perpendicular to the officer’s vehicle before rolling his window down and yelling at Sgt. Thomas. Reason then exited his vehicle and walked over to Sgt. Thomas while hurling profanities, police said. Afterward, Reason reportedly “walked back to his vehicle, opened the hood, and retrieved a rag containing a handgun” before approaching the sergeant a second time, police said.
“Sgt. Thomas subsequently drew his weapon and fired at Reason in response to an observed threat,” police said.
Reason then fled and, according to police, at some point raised his gun, prompting Sgt. Thomas to open fire and fatally shoot Reason. Thomas believed Reason “posed an immediate threat to the safety” of himself, his wife and other patrons of the shopping complex, police said. Reason was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.
Melissa Nold, a civil rights attorney representing Reason’s family, has publicly expressed distrust for the police investigation.
In a statement on Facebook tonight, she said she examined Reason’s body and says his fatal injury “was a single gunshot wound to the back of his head.”
“He had two additional non fatal gunshots wounds, one in back of his right shoulder and one on the back of his left forearm,” Nold said. “Witnesses report that he was running away when the fatal injury occurred.”
On Facebook, she shared a photo showing the sergeant standing over a deceased Reason with his cellphone while Vallejo police officers stood nearby, which the attorney said raised questions about possible special treatment for the officer. She also suggests Sgt. Thomas had taken a photo of the deceased Reason with his cellphone.
Investigators from the Solano County District Attorney’s Office and the Vallejo Police Department are conducting a joint Solano County Officer-Involved Fatal Incident Protocol investigation, according to police.