2 Calif. departments investigate shooting involving off-duty officer

Witnesses say Sgt. Virgil Thomas and Eric Reason were 'honking and screaming' at each other before the shooting


Anna Bauman
San Francisco Chronicle

VALLEJO, Calif. — Investigators from two police departments are probing the fatal shooting of a well-known resident and local rapper in Vallejo by an off-duty Richmond police officer.

The officer shot and killed the man at 5:25 p.m. Sunday in a strip-mall parking lot on Fairgrounds Drive near the Six Flags Discovery Kingdom amusement park and the Solano County Fairgrounds, Vallejo police said. Richmond police Sgt. Virgil Thomas acknowledged on Monday night that he was the officer involved in the shooting and referred questions to his lawyer.

Police have released little information about what led Thomas to shoot the man. Relatives and friends identified the man as Eric Reason, 38, a rapper who worked in construction, had six children and was widely known in Vallejo.

“It seems like half the people I know in town knew Eric,” said Melissa Nold, an attorney with the John Burris Law Offices in Oakland who said she is representing Reason’s family. “He’s a really well-liked guy.”

Witnesses said the incident may have started as an argument over a parking space. Nold said witnesses told her that Reason was leaving the mall parking lot after getting gas when the off-duty officer was pulling into a parking space.

There was an altercation in which the men were “honking and screaming” and got out of their cars, she said witnesses told her.

Police responding to reports of shots fired said the victim died at the scene. Police radio accounts indicate that the person who called 911 to report the incident identified himself as a police officer.

Thomas is a former president of the Richmond Police Officers Association.

In a 2015 interview with Richmond Confidential about an altercation between two men in a parking lot in Richmond in which one man died after being slapped, Thomas noted how quickly a confrontation can turn terribly bad.

“It shows how one, bad split-second decision can spiral out of control,” the Richmond Confidential quoted Thomas as saying.

Richmond police spokesman Lt. Matt Stonebraker said Richmond’s internal affairs unit will investigate whether the officer followed proper procedures and policies.

“We trust the Vallejo Police Department to conduct a fair and thorough investigation regarding this incident,” Richmond police said in a statement.

Ben Theriault, president of the Richmond Police Officers Association, released a statement asking people to hold off making a judgment until the investigation is completed.

The Vallejo Police Department is handling the criminal investigation with the assistance of the Solano County district attorney’s office, following a protocol for fatal shootings involving police officers, said Vallejo police Lt. Drew Ramsay.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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