SANTA ANA (AP) — Prosecutors said they’ve received a report on the cause of death for a mentally ill homeless man who died this summer after a violent confrontation with six police officers.
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas will hold a news conference Wednesday to announce whether his office will file criminal charges against the Fullerton officers. The FBI has also launched a probe to determine if officers violated the civil rights of Kelly Thomas, 37, during the July 5 altercation.
A spokesman for the sheriff-coroner did not return repeated calls Tuesday. The district attorney spokeswoman, Farrah Emami, said no further details about the district attorney’s findings would be released until the news conference.
Officers responding to reports of someone burglarizing cars at a transportation hub in Fullerton got into a violent fight with Thomas, who suffered from schizophrenia.
He suffered severe head and neck injuries and was taken off life support on July 10.
Video from a bystander’s cellphone taken from a distance showed parts of the bloody encounter between the officers and Thomas, including a snippet in which he can be heard screaming for his father. Surveillance video aboard a bus showed agitated passengers
saying officers beat and repeatedly used a stun gun on him.
An autopsy initially failed to determine the cause of death pending further tests.
Since the incident, six officers were put on paid administrative leave, the police chief went out on medical leave and the embattled city council hired a law enforcement expert to investigate the police department’s practices.
Incensed community members held weekly demonstrations in Fullerton outside the police headquarters and started an effort to recall the mayor and two councilmembers over the incident.
Thomas’ father, Ron Thomas, filed a claim against the city and two other men came forward with allegations they were also mistreated by Fullerton police. One of them said he had been mistakenly arrested and filed a civil rights lawsuit.
Ron Thomas said he was contacted by the district attorney’s office late Tuesday, but not told what prosecutors had decided.
He has previously released his son’s medical records from the University of California, Irvine, Medical Center, which showed Thomas suffered broken bones in his face, choked on his own blood and was repeatedly shocked with two stun guns.
“There’s no relief at all,” he said. “I don’t care really how long it takes as long as it’s the right decision.”
(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)