The attorney for the family of a man killed in a struggle with Pasadena police officers blasted the city’s version of the man’s death Sunday, hours after the family’s $1.5 million settlement with Pasadena officials was announced.
The settlement ends a federal lawsuit in the Sept. 30, 2016 death of 35-year-old Reginald Thomas, who died following a struggle with the Pasadena police outside his apartment. He was seen acting erratically officers, carrying a fire extinguisher and dagger, and refused to put them down, police said.
The city said its “expert investigators” determined Thomas’ death was caused by PCP and methamphetamine in his blood, not by police actions.
“He (Thomas) did not die of a drug overdose. They’re big fat liars,” attorney Caree Harper told City News Service on Sunday. “He was beaten, kicked, hit with a baton, over-Tazed and asphyxiated. It’s very convenient to say he died of a drug overdose, but it’s simply not true.”
Pasadena police and the city, in approving the settlement, said they “do not admit liability or fault in the matter.”
The City Council unanimously approved settlement at its meeting last Monday, and lawyers have since been finalizing the settlement agreement, according to Sunday’s announcement from the city.
In that statement, the city said its police were trying to protect Thomas’ wife and four small children during that early-morning disturbing the peace call. They observed Thomas act as if he were under the influence of drugs, and he sprayed the fire extinguisher on one of the children, the city statement said.
The city’s narrative states that police instructed Thomas to drop the dagger and fire extinguisher numerous times. And when he did not comply, Thomas was hit with a shock device, but a struggle broke out.
“Thomas later became unresponsive and the officers immediately commenced CPR,” the city said. “Paramedics from the Pasadena Fire Department were called and, upon arrival, took over CPR efforts.”
The city said Thomas was declared dead at 3:26 a.m. that day.
Harper told CNS that she wanted to try the case, but the family decided to take the settlement. She added that she hopes officials will lift a protective order on Thomas’ autopsy.
Harper also said she’s trying to get the FBI to investigate what she claims is a pattern of “retaliation” by the Pasadena Police Department meant to discourage complaints.
Pasadena officials could not be reached for comment on that accusation.
U.S. District Court Judge S. James Otero still must approve the settlement. The city pointed out that the police actions remain under review by the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office. Pasadena officials also said the police department is reviewing whether the officers acted within policy. The city has hired the Washington-based non-profit Police Foundation to review the police response and policies.
“City officials convey condolences to Mr. Thomas’ family and friends,” the statement concluded.