Vallejo, CA – Vallejo police have released surveillance video of a man pulling a gun on an off-duty Richmond police sergeant over a parking spot in front of a restaurant (video below).
The incident occurred on the evening on Nov. 10, 2019 during a dispute over a parking space in a strip mall in front of JJ’s Fish and Chicken, near the intersection of Fairgrounds and Sereno drives, the Mercury News reported.
Surveillance video from a nearby building showed that 38-year-old Eric Reason was pulling away from a gas pump in a dark minivan when off-duty Richmond Police Sergeant Virgil Thomas pulled into the parking lot in a light-colored Mercedes.
In the video, it wasn’t immediately clear that Reason was intending to enter the parking spot when he pulled away from the gas pump.
But the two cars met, and both briefly stopped, before Sgt. Thomas proceeded and pulled into the vacant space.
Sgt. Thomas, a 27-year veteran of the Richmond Police Department, got out of his car to go into the restaurant but stopped when he noticed Reason’s van stopped behind his vehicle boxing him in, the video showed.
The video showed Reason got out of his minivan and began walking toward Sgt. Thomas.
The sergeant turned to talk with Reason and the video showed the men had a heated discussion that ended when Reason walked away and back to his minivan.
But instead of getting into his car, he walked to the front and opened the hood.
Then video showed he retrieved a handgun wrapped in a cloth from under the left side of the hood.
Reason took the gun out of the cloth and held it in his left hand as he walked back toward Sgt. Thomas.
The off-duty sergeant had turned to walk away when Reason returned to his car, but he kept his eye on the man as he opened the hood of his minivan, the Mercury News reported.
More words were exchanged between the two men as Reason held the weapon, and then Sgt. Thomas drew his duty weapon from his waistband and opened fire on the armed man.
In the video, Reason began running away when Sgt. Thomas started shooting at him, but the sergeant continued firing at the armed man.
Justin Buffington, Sgt. Thomas’ attorney, said it was the first time in the veteran sergeant’s decorated career that he had discharged his service weapon and called Reason an “irate convicted felon,” the Mercury News reported.
“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,” Buffington said after the video was released. “Sgt. Thomas attempted to deescalate the situation but ultimately had no other choice but to draw his own firearm to defend he and his wife.”
“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, continued to present a deadly threat,” the attorney added.
Buffington said Sgt. Thomas “had no other choice” but to shoot the armed man who had boxed in his car with his wife inside, the Mercury News reported.
The Richmond police union president released a statement that said Sgt. Thomas had acted in self-defense when he shot Reason.
“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 boss Ben Therriault said.
Sgt. Thomas has been placed on paid administrative leave while the incident is investigated, as is protocol for all officer-involved shootings, NBC News reported.
Reason’s family has hired civil rights attorney Melissa Nold to represent them and she called the fatal shooting “a cold-blooded murder,” the Mercury News reported.
Despite the fact video clearly showed that Reason brought a weapon into the altercation, Nold has accused Solano County District Attorney Krishna Abrams of “allowing police officers to murder people in Vallejo with impunity.”
Watch the incident unfold in the video below: