Fil-Ams dismayed by findings in Pinay's shooting

By Rodney Jaleco, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

Posted at Aug 01 2013 09:52 AM | Updated as of Aug 01 2013 10:50 PM

WASHINGTON D.C. - Authorities in Loudoun County, Virginia have concluded the fatal police shooting of a 38-year-old Filipina last May was justified, drawing immediate indignation from the Filipino-American community here.

Ed Navarra, national chairman of the umbrella National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA), said he was dismayed by the findings on the death of Mylene “Mhai” de Leon-Scott.

“While we understand that police officers need to use force to protect themselves, we continue to believe that when guns were fired at Mhai Scott, it was an unreasonable and excessive use of force which showed reckless disregard for the life of an innocent woman,” he said in a statement.

De Leon Scott worked at a Costco store in Leesburg when she allegedly started acting strangely, prompting other store employees to call the police last May 29. Two Sheriff’s deputies were among the first to reach the scene.

The investigation conducted by the Sheriff’s Office and Virginia State Police, and reviewed by the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, said De Leon-Scott failed to respond to commands to drop a pizza knife and possibly a pair of scissors, and allegedly charged at them.

The deputies then shot out a Taser but for reasons not fully explained in the report, it failed to subdue the Filipina. One of the deputies then fired five shots, four of them hitting De Leon-Scott and one round hitting the other deputy in the leg.

Neither of the two deputies involved has been publicly identified by authorities although they contend they were veterans in the police force.

Philippine Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia Jr. has conveyed the concern of the Philippine government as well as the Fil-Am community over the questionable circumstances surrounding De Leon-Scott’s death, especially the apparently disproportionate use of force.

ABS-CBN News aired an interview of her mother in the Philippines who said they were angry and distraught.

The report also focused on De Leon-Scott’s alleged history of mental illness. She was locked in a custody battle with her husband over their two children, ages 8 and 12. She was reportedly hospitalized at least once in Ohio and was receiving medical assistance after she moved to Northern Virginia.

Navarra said the Fil-Am community remained united with De Leon-Scott’s family. “Mhai’s wrongful death cries out for justice and the Filipino American community will pursue every means to ensure that justice is done,” he said.

“Law enforcement authorities must be held accountable for negligence and failure to exercise prudence in cases where other options would have saved the life of innocent victims,” Navarra stressed.

The incident has been closely followed by media, including the highly influential Washington Post. Some of the initial readers’ reactions to online stories appeared incredulous at the Loudoun Sheriff office’s version of the deadly shooting.

Some Fil-Am lawyers are looking into the possibility of a wrongful death suit against the Sheriff’s deputies but that would all depend on the wishes of De Leon-Scott’s family.