The attorney representing the family of a Pasadena man who died while in police custody last week said Monday that the man was repeatedly kicked and beaten by officers and was not given proper medical attention before he died.
Caree Harper, who represents Reginald Thomas's family, said during a news conference in front of the Pasadena Police Department that six officers were involved in the incident and could have handled the situation differently.
“Why couldn’t you give him time and deescalate?” Harper asked.
"Just because Pasadena PD says 'we use less lethal force,' does not mean they did not use excessive force. Hands on can be just as lethal as a bullet. A boot to the head can be just like a bullet to the head if you keep kicking a man when he is down. They should have let the man live.”
She stood in front of a large group of Thomas' family members, including many young children, who wore T-shirts that said "Justice for JR Thomas." Family members rarely spoke during the news conference except to say they were frustrated and want justice.
Thomas was the father of eight children and had one on the way.
His girlfriend, Shainie Lindsay, had previously told KTLA that Thomas was "dysfunctional" and bipolar, and had previous run-ins with police.
Pasadena police said officers were called to an apartment complex at 2:20 a.m. Friday for a "domestic disturbance with a suspect at the location armed with a knife."
Thomas, 36, did not comply with officers' orders and tried to "re-enter an occupied apartment," according to a Pasadena Police Department news release. After a Taser was used on Thomas, a fight ensued.
He was subdued and restrained, but the restraints were removed when he was in distress. He ultimately died at the scene.
Harper said Thomas did not brandish the knife during the incident, but had it tucked underneath his armpit. He later dropped it after being Tasered, she said.
Harper added that after speaking to witnesses at the scene, she understands that officers at the scene, as well as back up officers who responded then piled up on Thomas and one of them beat him with a baton.
Harper said it was not officers, but emergency responders who tried to revive Thomas after the incident. She added that, instead of being taken to a nearby hospital where life-saving measures could have continued, his body was left at the scene for hours.
“The children and his girlfriend had to go over his body his lifeless body, to exit the unit,” Harper said.
"The fact that they let him die in that apartment is more than negligent it’s actionable, and it needs to be stopped, right now."
The death sparked protests in Pasadena on Friday and into the weekend, as two other men were killed by police in South Los Angeles.
Police released an audio recording of one of the 911 calls made Friday morning, but the voice heard in the tape is of Thomas’ 15-year-old son, who was himself “stressed” during the incident, Harper said.
She said police purposely released that recording of the incident to favor their investigation.
“We’re not resting the whole store on a child’s perspective of stress,” Harper said. “We’re resting it on the totality of the
Harper who had previously represented the family of Kendrec McDade, who was shot and killed by Pasadena police in 2012, said the family may pursue a lawsuit alleging civil rights violations, wrongful death and excessive force.
"The Pasadena PD has a long history of having a heavy hand, especially when it comes to the black community," she said.
“They’ve been riding rough for a long time. They need to be held accountable, we’re not going to sit back and wait for them to give us answers."