Family of man killed by deputy files petition to possibly pursue wrongful death suit

Petitions were filed on Aug. 13 in Aztec District Court

Joshua Kellogg
Farmington Daily Times
  • The family of Shawn Thomas petitioned Aztec District Court to appoint Thomas’ mother, Matilda Clah, as the personal representative of her son’s estate under the wrongful death act.
  • Thomas, 36, was killed on July 11 by a San Juan County Sheriff’s Office deputy along U.S. Highway 64 in the Waterflow area.
  • Attorney Lawrence Junker told The Daily Times the firm is still investigating the facts of the incident to determine what, if any, actions may exist for a lawsuit.

FARMINGTON — Family for the man shot and killed by a deputy in July have filed court documents to possibly file a wrongful death lawsuit against the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office.

The family of Shawn Thomas petitioned Aztec District Court to appoint Thomas’ mother, Matilda Clah, as the personal representative of her son’s estate under the wrongful death act, according to court documents.

More:Video released of July deputy shooting near Waterflow, suspect reportedly had 'replica firearm'

Thomas, 36, was killed on July 11 by a San Juan County Sheriff’s Office deputy along U.S. Highway 64 in the Waterflow area.

The petition was filed on Aug. 13 in Aztec District Court, according to a copy of the document.

A San Juan County Sheriff's Office deputy deploys a traffic device to slow down the vehicle driven by Shawn Thomas on July 11 along U.S. Highway 64. Thomas' family has filed court documents to possibly file a wrongful death lawsuit against the Sheriff's Office for killing Thomas that day.

The Albuquerque law firm of Gubert, Gentile and Piazza is representing Thomas’ family.

Attorney Lawrence Junker told The Daily Times the firm is still investigating the facts of the incident to determine what, if any, actions may exist for a lawsuit.

The petition claims Thomas’ death was caused by the neglect and wrongful act of another, which gives “rise” to civil action for wrongful death.

District Court Judge Sarah Weaver approved the decision in an Aug. 18 order.

Applying to be a personal representative in a wrongful death lawsuit is one of the first steps toward filing a lawsuit involving the decedent’s estate.

The New Mexico Wrongful Death Act states a lawsuit in someone’s death must be filed within two years of their death.

The information released by law enforcement states Thomas allegedly pulled a gun on people at a Shiprock gas station, then fled the scene.

This led to a vehicle pursuit involving Navajo Police Department until Thomas left their jurisdiction, where the Sherriff’s Office tried to detain Thomas in a stolen Toyota vehicle.

Thomas brandished what was believed to be a handgun multiple times at deputies.

It was when he stopped the vehicle in the roadway and pointed the weapon at a sergeant that a deputy fired upon Thomas.

It is unknown how many shots were fired or how many struck Thomas.

The vehicle traveled off the highway, crashed into a tree and caught on fire. Thomas was removed from the vehicle but died at the scene.

Investigators believe Thomas may have used a replica firearm instead of a handgun, after he used a “BB gun” in a separate aggravated assault case, according to court documents.

The contents of the vehicle were destroyed in the fire.

Joshua Kellogg covers breaking news for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

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