The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office determined that Pasadena police officers used reasonable force in subduing a 35-year-old man who died after a September 2016 struggle outside his apartment, city officials announced Wednesday.
“We want to thank the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office for their comprehensive work and for their commitment to finding the truth in this matter,” Pasadena City Manager Steve Mermell said in a city-issued statement. “The loss of Reginald Thomas’ life is tragic, but the District Attorney’s review concludes that the responding Pasadena police officers acted within reason and their use of force was lawful.”
A district attorney’s spokesman said a copy of the document involving the Sept. 30, 2016, death of Thomas was not immediately available.
Caree Harper, an attorney representing Thomas’ family, said the decision by District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s office to clear the officers was “disappointing but not surprising.”
“Her eyes are on (former California Attorney General) Kamala Harris’ former job or something similar and she needs law enforcement support for that,” Harper said in a statement. “This town needs an independent prosecutor or … Ms. Lacey needs to let a grand jury decide whether or not to charge and to deputize local civil rights attorneys to deal with these situations.”
Pasadena police have said the officers were trying to protect Thomas’ family while responding to an early-morning disturbing the peace call.
The memorandum from the District Attorney’s Office was based on investigative reports, witness statements, audio recordings, 911 recordings and an autopsy report from the coroner’s office that concluded that the manner of Thomas’ death was undetermined, according to the city’s statement.
The memorandum says officers who responded to Thomas’ apartment “began by simply asking Thomas to drop his weapons and allow them to enter the residence.”
“Thomas refused and began actively and physically resisting the officers’ lawful efforts. The officers resorted to more forcible measures only after other means, including the Taser, proved ineffective. Their escalation of force was in direct response to Thomas’ escalating combative resistance. Further, the Taser deployments and baton strikes, manual strikes, kicks and restraint methods were a reasonable response to Thomas’ escalating and continued resistance,” the city said in its statement, quoting from the D.A.’s memorandum.
Last Sunday, the city announced that Thomas’ family — who had filed a federal lawsuit against the city — agreed to a $1.5 million settlement in which Pasadena police and the city “do not admit liability or fault in the matter.”
Thomas’ death sparked anger among some residents who gathered at the scene demanding more information and confronting a sheriff’s official who arrived to brief reporters. A march also was organized that drew a crowd of more than 100 people.
On the day of Thomas’ death, a pregnant woman who told reporters she was Thomas’ longtime partner said he was bipolar and had called police himself for help.
“They know he’s on Social Security. They know he’s 5150,” Shainie 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.”
Lindsay, who said she had four children with Thomas and one on the way, said he didn’t comply because he “was just out of it basically.” She said he retreated into a room and slammed the door on the officers, who managed to pry their way inside.
“They was wrestling with him, was kicking him in the head and beating him with the baton stick,” Lindsay said. “Then, after that, they was doing CPR and he was dead.”
The officers who responded to the 911 call and were involved in the altercation were identified as Thomas Butler, Robert Griffith, Michael Orosco, Philip Poirier, Raphael Santiago and Aaron Villacana. Officer Jeffrey Newlen arrived shortly after the incident and assisted with CPR.