An official with the Orange County District Attorney's office accused the American Civil Liberty Union's executive director of "grandstanding" Friday after the organization issued a statement regarding the Kelly Thomas case.
Thomas, 37, died five days after he was involved in an altercation July 5 with Fullerton police. The Orange County DA and FBI are investigating, but the ACLU Friday expressed doubt in the DA office's ability to conduct an impartial investigation.
"We are pleased that the FBI will investigate Thomas' death,'' said Hector Villagra, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California. "Although Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas reportedly has some two dozen investigators working on the case, interviewing up to 100 witnesses, the district attorney has an abysmal track record when it comes to investigating and prosecuting officer-involved deaths."
That prompted a response from Susan Kang Schroeder, the chief of staff for DA Tony Rackauckas. She said the office filed charges in the past, including a case against an Anaheim police officer who sexually assaulted prostitutes on his beat.
"The ACLU is incapable of not grandstanding," said Schroeder.
She said the Attorney General's Office would intervene if county prosecutors were not doing their jobs correctly.
Thomas' death sparked outrage, which was on display Tuesday at a Fullerton City Council meeting. Thomas's father, Ron Thomas, spoke at the meeting.
Officers said Thomas struggled as they tried to arrest him at the Fullerton Transportation Center on suspicion of possessing stolen goods. The officers had been investigating a report of a man trying to break into vehicles at the station parking lot.
The six officers involved in the case are on paid administrative leave.