Dozens of protesters gathered in Pasadena Friday night after police officers used a Taser and physical restraints on a man who later died.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department was called to the scene around 4 a.m. to investigate the death in the 200 block of Orange Grove Boulevard.
At the scene of sheriff’s homicide investigation, a woman who identified herself as the mother of the man’s children sobbed as she described seeing the man die in front of her. Shainie Lindsay identified him as Reginald Thomas, 36, saying they have four children together and that she is pregnant with a fifth.
“He called the police on himself. He wanted help,” Lindsay said.
Thomas was “dysfunctional” and bipolar, and had previous run-ins with police before, she said.
Pasadena police said officers were called to the residence at 2:20 a.m. for a “domestic disturbance with a suspect at the location armed with a knife.”
The man 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 the man, a fight ensued.
Late Friday morning, sheriff’s homicide Capt. Steven Katz spoke at a chaotic scene outside the apartment complex, where neighbors and reporters asked for details.
One man shouted at him, asking for his job description and another repeating “stop sacrificing black men.” Others angrily yelled at officers.
By 2:45 p.m., approximately 100 protesters were standing outside the apartment, and several people were blocking the eastbound lane of Orange Grove, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The man was known by many as Junior, and one demonstrator at the scene held a sign that read, “Jr. Thomas life mattered,” according to the newspaper.
The incident started when two 911 calls came from the home, the first at about 2 a.m., regarding a family disturbance, Katz told reporters at a separate news briefing held early in the afternoon.
That call, which apparently initiated from a cellphone, was dropped. Pasadena police were able to locate it electronically and narrowed the location of where it came from.
The second call, received around 2:40 a.m., indicated a family disturbance, possession of a knife and the use of some unspecified controlled substance, and a “struggle” could be heard over the phone, the captain said.
About 10 minutes after that, police responded to an address identified in the second call and made contact with a man identified by Katz as a “suspect.”
“They found him to be armed with a knife, and they found him to be combative and unresponsive to their efforts and verbal commands,” he said. The knife was in his hand, while a fire extinguisher was under an arm, he added.
Lindsay stated two officers came to the home and told Thomas to put down the knife and fire extinguisher, but he did not respond because “he was out of it.”
They twice used a Taser on him, she said.
Thomas eventually dropped the fire extinguisher but then shut the door on the officers, according to Lindsay. The officers pried open the door, Lindsay said, and then told her to leave as the altercation escalated.
“They was wrestling with him, was kicking him in the head and beating him with the baton stick,” Lindsay said, crying. “Then, after that, they was doing CPR and then he was dead.”
Pasadena police said that after the fight the man “was ultimately subdued.”
“Physical force was used to restrain and take the individual into custody,” Katz confirmed. “He was handcuffed, and at some point his ankles were restrained with a restraint device.”
Officers monitored the man’s condition while they awaited the arrival of Pasadena Fire Department paramedics, who had been called to the scene, according to Katz.
During that time, the officers noticed the man was in distress and the restraints were immediately removed, he said. Police began life-saving efforts, including CPR, which they continued until the Fire Department arrived.
Paramedics arrived and took over, but the man died at the scene.
There was no indication that an “impact weapon” was used, Katz said when asked about baton use.
A firearm was not used, he said. Katz also stated he was not aware of any officers applying a chokehold.
He added that while there was evidence that two Taser cartridges had been deployed, it would not be known if the projectiles made contact with the man until after the autopsy is conducted.
A cause of death will be determined by the coroner’s office, which is among a number of agencies taking part in the investigation.
Details are still emerging, Katz emphasized, saying the investigation was still in its infancy.
A woman and two teen boys were at the home when police responded, according to the captain. Six officers ultimately responded, he said.
Thomas has eight children, Lindsay said.
“He was a good father, and they didn’t have to kill him,” she said. “He just wanted help. He didn’t want to die.”
Katz said a man placed the 911 call, but said “we do not know the source of the call.”
The investigation was taking place in the courtyard of Orange Grove Gardens, a low-income housing development.
The man did not live at the complex, and was visiting someone, according to Katz. He resided somewhere in the city of Los Angeles.
A resident of the complex told KTLA there were video cameras inside the complex and that information had been shared with police.
“There is some signage in the apartment complex that clearly indicates there is some some … surveillance video,” Katz confirmed. “We do believe we have identified some surveillance video from the courtyard area in front of the apartment itself.”
He added that most of the confrontation took place in a doorway, in what he called a “threshold” of the apartment complex. He was unsure what the exterior footage would show.
Investigators were in the process of having it collected by a sheriff’s technical operations unit, Katz said.
Outside the home, residents demanded to see the video. It was not known if law enforcement would release the footage to the public at some point.
Detectives remained at the scene about 12 hours following the man’s death, and Katz said he expected they would be there through the evening.
KTLA’s Stephen Acosta contributed to this article.