VALLEJO (KRON) — The City of Vallejo released surveillance video Tuesday night showing the minutes leading up to and the moment a man was shot last November by an off-duty Richmond police officer in the parking lot of a gas station.
The video shows the two men, 38-year-old Eric Reason, of Vallejo and the off-duty Richmond police officer Sgt. Virgil Thomas, getting into some type of argument before shots were fired.
The shooting occurred around 5:25 p.m. on Nov. 10 at a gas station along Fairground Drive in Vallejo.
A source told KRON4 in November that the incident began when the two men got out of their cars and began arguing.
The surveillance video appears to corroborate that account, showing the arguing.
An attorney representing the family of Reason told KRON4 said the officer was “inconvenienced” that the man was slow to exit the parking lot.
Attorney Melissa Nold said the officer initiated the screaming with Reason.
Police allege Reason yelled at the officer first and then exited his car and “directed profanities” at him.
Vallejo police says Reason then went back to his car and got a gun inside a rag from the hood of his car.
“Sgt. Thomas believed that Reason still posed an immediate threat to the safety of Sgt. Thomas, his wife, who was a passenger in the vehicle, and other patrons of the shopping complex. Sgt. Thomas subsequently fired his weapon at Reason,” the Vallejo Police Department said in a statement in November.
Back in November, the Richmond Police Officers Association acknowledged Reason’s past felony conviction and said the officer was confronted by the man.
“Unfortunately when a police officer is confronted by a felon armed with a firearm, deadly force may be necessary,” the association’s statement read in part.
The Reason Family attorney said the officer did not identify himself as a police officer — which if he had, Nold says the 38-year-old would still be alive.
The City of Vallejo released a total of four videos Tuesday night.
The first video shows the cars driving toward each other and the officer pulling into a parking spot.
Reason then stops behind the officer, as seen in the video, prior to the argument and eventual shots being fired.
A friend of Reason told KRON4 in November that the man was a father of six and was working to improve his life.
“He wasn’t in no bad mood. No bad spirits. Nothing. They can’t say nothing like that. We all know he wasn’t,” the friend said.
Justin Buffington, the attorney for Sgt. Thomas, issued a statement Wednesday afternoon.
“Virgil Thomas, a decorated veteran police sergeant with an excellent record, was on his way to dinner with his wife when they were accosted by an irate convicted felon armed with an assault pistol. The felon, Eric Reason, became enraged over a minor traffic misunderstanding that takes place hundreds of times a day: Sgt. Virgil had the right of way and Mr. Reason thought it was his turn.
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. 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.
Once Reason realized that he had attempted to attack someone capable of protecting himself, he ran through the parking lot, still armed with his pistol, in what reasonably appeared to be an effort to obtain a position of tactical advantage from which to shoot at Sgt. Thomas.
Any loss of life is regrettable and certainly Sgt. Thomas had hoped to finish his stellar 27-year career without discharging his weapon, but under the circumstances he had no other choice. Video images of uses of force are often graphic and upsetting, even when (as here) the force is completely justified.“