PASADENA (CBSLA) – Six Pasadena police officers will not face any charges in the controversial 2016 death of an armed, mentally unstable man who died during an arrest, sparking community protests.
Following an extensive investigation, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office cleared the six officers of wrongdoing in the death of 36-year-old Reginald Thomas, a father of eight, Pasadena police announced Wednesday.
The Justice System Integrity Division determined that the officers “used reasonable force in subduing Thomas,” police said in a news release.
On Sunday, Thomas’ family settled a lawsuit against the city and Pasadena Police Department for $1.5 million. Pasadena police and the city, in approving the settlement, said they “do not admit liability or fault in the matter.” The city has claimed its “expert investigators” determined Thomas’ death was caused by PCP and methamphetamine in his blood, not by police actions.
This despite the L.A. County Coroner being unable to find a cause of death. The coroner ultimately concluded that Thomas’ death was undetermined.
In the early morning hours of Sept. 30, 2016, homicide detectives were called to the 200 block of East Orange Grove Boulevard on the report of a family disturbance inside the apartment building.
Police said they arrived on scene to find Thomas armed with a knife and fire extinguisher. When he did not comply with numerous orders to drop the weapons, a Taser was used to try and disarm him.
According to a memorandum from the DA’s office, when the Taser “proved ineffective,” the officers’ “escalation of force was in direct response to Thomas’ escalating combative resistance.”
A fight ensued. Police said after he was subdued, officers realized he was not breathing and performed CPR until paramedics took over. Thomas died at the scene.
“Further, the Taser deployments and baton strikes, manual strikes, kicks and restraint methods were a reasonable response to Thomas’ escalating and continued resistance,” the DA’s memorandum read.
Immediately following Thomas’ death, Shainie Lindsay — who told CBS2 she was the mother of four of Thomas’ children — called him “bipolar” and said Thomas was the one who called 911 for help.
Lindsay said Thomas had been armed with a knife and a fire extinguisher, and the two officers who responded to the scene ordered him to drop the items and twice used a Taser on him. He eventually dropped the fire extinguisher, she said, but then Thomas retreated into a room and slammed the door on the officers, who managed to pry their way inside.
“They (the police) know he’s on Social Security, they know he’s 5150,” Lindsay said, referring to the official code for a psychiatric confinement. “It’s not the first run-in with him. He called the police on himself. He wanted help.”
Thomas’ younger sister, Antoinette Dulaney, reiterated that it was Thomas who called the police.
“How does the victim who ends up calling for help end up murdered?” she said. “He was a great person.”
“He was struggling with mental illness but the police know this,” Thomas’ brother-in-law, Forrest Elder told CBS2 back in October of 2016. “He’s been in and out of mental homes where they help him and give him medication.”
The day after Thomas’ death, about 100 people marched through the streets of Pasadena in protest.
Meanwhile, U.S. District Court Judge S. James Otero still must approve the $1.5 million settlement. The city of Pasadena has hired the Washington-based non-profit Police Foundation to review the police response and policies.
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