From [HERE] The city of Pasadena has agreed to settle a lawsuit for wrongful death in the case of Reginald Thomas Jr., the 35-year-old black man who died in police custody in 2016. The city will pay the family $1.5 million.
City Council approved the settlement in closed session at its March 26 meeting, three weeks before the case was set to go to trial, a city spokeswoman confirmed on Sunday, April 1.
“By agreeing to the settlement, the city and its officers do not admit liability or fault in the matter,” Pasadena spokeswoman Lisa Derderian said in a statement, adding the settlement is tentative pending court approval.
The wrongful death lawsuit said the Pasadena Police Department altered and withheld evidence in an attempt to conceal wrongdoing by its officers. The suit sough unspecified damages and lists a series of violations, including excessive force, inadequate medical care and conspiracy.
Named in the lawsuit were the six officers who were directly involved in the altercation with Thomas: Thomas Butler, Robert Griffith, Michael Orosco, Philip Poirier, Raphael Santiago and Aaron Villacana. Four other officers who responded to the scene were also sued.
The lawsuit alleges that officers attempted to cover up the deadly struggle by removing the hard drive for a surveillance camera system within the complex. Officers, according to the suit, removed the hard drive without a search warrant and manipulated the information it contained.
The alleged cover-up continued when the department placed a "security hold" on Thomas' autopsy results, according to the lawsuit.
"The unwarranted, illegal withholding of a public document is specific conspiratorial effort to undermine transparency and delay and quell public outrage over the killing of Reginald Thomas," the lawsuit contends.
According to his family, Thomas was suffering from a medical emergency. Audio recording released by the police department included three 911 calls. One of the calls includes Thomas’ 15-year-old son saying the man was "armed with a knife and a fire extinguisher." However, cops do not listen to 911 calls - they get their information from police dispatch, called a "radio run."
According to the lawsuit, Thomas was visiting his girlfriend, Shainie Lindsey, and several of his children, at Lindsey's apartment in the 200 block of East Orange Grove Boulevard.
"At some point during the visit, in the early morning hours, Mr. Thomas believed that his family was in danger so he called the police believing they could and would help — he was wrong," the lawsuit says.
Reginald Thomas Jr. was clutching a fire extinguisher and reportedly had a knife under his arm when Pasadena police officers arrived at his girlfriend's East Orange Grove Avenue apartment. He was inside with her and two teenagers.
Police said Thomas refused to cooperate with officers. According to the lawsuit, however, officers didn't give him enough time to understand and comply with the orders.
After the initial struggle, Thomas managed to close the door for a few seconds before six officers rammed their way back into the apartment.
The lawsuit alleges that Thomas dropped the knife and fell to the ground after he was shocked by a Taser. Then a second officer fired another Taser, causing Thomas to release the extinguisher.
The lawsuit contends that officers punched and kicked Thomas as he screamed for his mother and that another officer used a stun gun on him.
"As additional officers arrived, they 'piled on' to Mr. Thomas' body," the lawsuit said.
Six Pasadena officers were assaulting the 35-year-old man. One officer then applied a knee to Thomas' neck, Harper said.
That officer's action left Thomas "speechless and finally lifeless, intentionally squeezing the life out of Mr. Thomas," the lawsuit alleges.
One officer, in the most detailed account yet, described in an interview with internal affairs a struggle in which Thomas was repeatedly shocked with stun guns, battered with batons, and punched and kicked in the head. Officer Aaron Villacana said that when he arrived Taser wires were already hanging from Thomas, who held the fire extinguisher at both ends while he screamed at the top of his lungs.
Villacana said he hit Thomas with a "hammer fist" in the face twice so hard his hand broke. His colleagues were able to restrain Thomas, a man who by his family's account struggled with mental illness. [MORE]
"The fight at the door was so hellacious," recalled Villicana, according to the court document. Officers shocked Thomas several times with their stun guns.
As officers repeatedly hit Thomas with batons, they claimed Thomas grabbed Villacana's baton to stop him from hitting him with it. "And we're at tug of war," Villacana said in the court document. "The only way to defend myself at that point and my fellow officers that were there … was to deliver two strikes, uh, kicks to the head to retrieve the baton."
After the struggle with Thomas, police handcuffed him and tied his ankles. They then noticed he wasn’t breathing, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, who also responded to the calls. Officers attempted CPR, as did firefighters, but Thomas was later pronounced dead at the scene.
Roger Clark, a retired L.A. County sheriff's lieutenant and police force expert for Thomas' family, said in the report that Thomas showed signs of intoxication but was not aggressive.
Officers shocked Thomas 12 times in a minute, Clark said — far more frequently than national guidelines advise for Taser usage. He called the kicks and blows to Thomas' head "out of policy, reckless and excessive."
Clark said that based on officers' statements and those of eyewitnesses, the way officers restrained Thomas caused his death. [MORE]
According to the lawsuit, there was no threat of violence to Thomas' girlfriend and children.
"No exigent circumstances existed, and time was on the side of the first responders to negotiate and take a peaceful approach to resolve the incident," the lawsuit contends. "Instead of choosing to assist Thomas in dealing with the mental health crisis they chose to kill him."
Caree Harper, the family attorney, said the officers killed Thomas and should face some level of criminal charges for using deadly force. His body was battered and bruised from "beating and kicking," Harper said, noting that her expert witness found evidence of positional or restraint asphyxia and an illegal use of force.
Harper, said in her own statement that while her office is disappointed the officers involved will not face trial for “allegations of excessive force,” Thomas’ family is pleased with the settlement.
Harper said in her statement on Sunday that while Thomas’ family is satisfied with the $1.5 million settlement, they do have additional requests. Specifically, Harper said the family would like Thomas’ autopsy report to be made public, and for Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey to press criminal charges against the officers involved.
According to Derderian, an administrative review by the police department is ongoing. An independent review by the Washington, D.C.-based non-profit Police Foundation is also underway, Derderian said. The city retained the non-profit for the review due to community concerns about the incident.
However, the six Pasadena police officers will not face any charges. A few days after the settlement was announced all the cops were quietly cleared. Following an extensive investigation, Jackie Lacey the DA of 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 this Wednesday.
The Justice System Integrity Division determined that the officers "used reasonable force in subduing Thomas," police said in a news release.
Jackie Lacey, a mentacidal black probot, has a history of hooking up cops who terrorize Blacks & Latinos. In August she offered a no-jail-time felony plea to a white cop who kicked a Black man's head like a football after a bicycle traffic stop. [more] She also recently declined to file charges against the cops who killed Ezell Ford, an unarmed mentally chalenged black man. After an unlawful stop of Ford and despite inconsistent statements made by cops, Lacey said the cops actions were “legally justified.[MORE] What will be her reward for serving her masters so very well? [MORE]