Video released of off-duty cop fatally shooting man who pulled gun during argument

The man approached the officer with a gun during an argument over a parking space


By Nate Gartrell and John Glidden
Times-Herald, Vallejo, Calif.

VALLEJO, Calif. — The city has released four angles showing a city resident pulling a gun on an off-duty cop as the two argued over a parking space, then running away as the officer draws his own weapon and continuously fires, killing him.

The fatal Nov. 10 encounter has led to protests and threats of a lawsuit by the family of Eric “Cheddaman” Reason, 38, who was shot and killed by off-duty Richmond police Sgt. Virgil Thomas, a 27-year veteran. The shooting occurred at the parking lot of JJ’s Fish and Chicken, near the intersection of Fairgrounds and Sereno Drives.

The video, released Tuesday evening, shows Thomas, driving a light-colored Mercedes, and Reason, driving a dark colored van, both go for the same parking spot. A pedestrian blocks Reason and Thomas pulls into the spot first. The videos, which appear to be security footage from a convenience store in the area, contain no audio.

Reason then parks his van behind Thomas, in the middle of the lot, then walks over to Thomas and begins confronting him. The two have what appears to be a heated discussion, which lasts several seconds. Then Reason walks back toward his van, while Thomas walks in the direction of the convenience store, stops, and observes Reason open the hood of his van.

Reason appears to retrieve a pistol from the front of the car, then walks back over to Thomas, gun in hand. The two exchange words, and Reason turns back toward his van, while Thomas can be seen drawing a weapon from the belt of his pants.

Thomas then begins to shoot, while Reason — apparently realizing the danger — starts to run away. Thomas then runs toward the middle of the parking lot, aims in Reason’s direction, and fires several times while Reason continues to run.

Reason is crossing Sereno Drive — approximately 50 to 100 feet away from Thomas, with his back to the officer — when he is fatally struck and falls to the ground, where he was later pronounced dead. An attorney for the Reason family said Reason was shot in the back of the head.

In a written statement, Richmond police union president Ben Therriault said that the video vindicates Thomas, but added he wouldn’t comment further, as Vallejo police and the Solano County District Attorney are still investigating the incident.

“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,” Therriault said.

Melissa Nold, a civil rights attorney acquired by Reason’s family, has previously accused Thomas of “escalating” the situation and provoking the deadly result.

“Those videos show a cold blooded murder. I want to know why Eric Reason’s murderer isn’t in custody,” Nold said Tuesday night after reviewing the videos. “I want to know why District Attorney Krishna ‘Blue Lives’ Abrams keeps allowing police officers to murder people in Vallejo with impunity.”

In the days following the fatal shooting, a still photograph circulated on the internet showing Reason laying face down in the middle of Sereno Drive while a Vallejo police officer and Thomas stood over the body.

Thomas appeared to be holding a phone while standing over Reason’s body.

Vallejo police haven’t responded to questions from this newspaper about the photo and why Thomas was allowed to stand so close to Reason’s body.

Police also declined in a November 2019 public records request to immediately give the names of the officers that were in charge of the crime scene, saying the shooting was still under investigation.

“The release of the information you seek will jeopardize the department’s ability to conduct a fair and impartial investigation,” Vallejo police Lt. Robert Knight with the professional standards division, wrote in his response to this newspaper’s request.

Reason was known as a local rapper who went by the stage name “Cheddaman,” and appeared on a song alongside popular California rapper Mac Mall on the compilation album 2009 “Country Club Crest: 3 C’s Down.” Relatives told KTVU and NBC that Reason was a father of six, who was working in construction.

Thomas was given a short suspension more than a decade ago, according to a high-ranking law enforcement official with knowledge of the suspension. It stemmed from a 2005 accusation that he used excessive force on a man named Ramon Castillo, who had fallen asleep on a sidewalk while walking home from a bar. Castillo sued in 2007, accusing Thomas of waking him up with “a strike to the left side of his neck,” before kicking Castillo several more times.

©2020 Times-Herald (Vallejo, Calif.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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