Federal civil rights lawsuit filed against two East Bay police departments

Bay Area

VALLEJO, Calif. (KRON) – We’re learning new details about a heated argument over a parking spot, that ended with an off-duty officer shooting and killing that man. 

In a newly filed federal lawsuit, the family of Eric Reason now claims two East Bay police departments violated civil rights.

Sergeant Virgil Thomas died from COVID-19, just weeks ago but lawyers say despite his death, it doesn’t clear Richmond and Vallejo Police Departments from the actions of their workers. 

Nearly a year after he was shot and killed, on Monday, lawyers for Eric Reason filed a federal civil rights lawsuit. 

“You don’t get to just shoot a person who was not causing an imminent threat to you or anyone else,” Melissa Nold said.  

According to the 29-page complaint, last November, Reason and off-duty Richmond police officer Virgil Thomas got into a heated argument over a parking spot at a Vallejo gas station. 

When Reason turned to walk away, Thomas pulled out his gun, and started firing wildly.

Even as Reason was running away, Thomas continued to fire eventually hitting Reason in the back of the head, 50-feet away.  

Melissa Nold represents Reason’s family and called the shooting shocking, considering Thomas had nearly 30-years on the job. 

“That doesn’t justify a person effectively executing a person from a great distance while they’re screaming for help, screaming for help from bystanders,” Nold said.  

Nold says this picture shows how Vallejo police also violated Reason.

“Even though none of their officers caused no harm, they still managed to participate in what appears to continually violate Mr. Reason’s rights,” Nold said.   

The picture appears to show Thomas inside of the crime scene, even taken pictures of Reason’s body. 

Nold says it’s a clear violation of protocols. 

“The officer should have been sequestered, immediately taken off of the scene so they don’t corrupt evidence,” Nold said.   

Nold says even some Vallejo officers with no connection to the case stopped by just to look at Reason’s body. 

“These were not investigating officers, these were just late comers who came to take a peek,” Nold said.

The case took another twist in recent weeks after Thomas died from COVID-19. 

Nold says it doesn’t stop the cities from being responsible for the actions of its officers. 

She’s hoping for justice for Eric. 

“This was a guy who was well-loved in the community, took good care of his children,” Nold said. “The death of Sergeant Thomas adds another layer to that.”

This afternoon, KRON4 did reach out to both the Vallejo and Richmond Police Departments for comment on the lawsuit. 

So far, we have yet to hear back from both agencies. 

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