The family lawyer of a 37-year-old schizophrenic man who died after an altercation with El Monte police officers is comparing the case to that of Kelly Thomas, a schizophrenic homeless man who died last July after being beaten into a coma by two Fullerton police officers.
Khoa Anh Le, who would have turned 38 on Tuesday, died June 14 after he was allegedly tasered and beaten with a flashlight by two El Monte police officers in his home in the 2700 block of Caminar Avenue (map), said Hoang Huy Tu, the family’s attorney.
Police responded to the home after they received a family disturbance call shortly before 11 p.m.
Police officers used “excessive force” when addressing Le, Tu said, adding that the victim was peaceful and unarmed when officers arrived at the scene.
Le was allegedly kicked, choked, tasered and beaten by a flashlight about 20 times, according to Tu and Le’s family members.
Los Angeles County Sheriff's investigators said police used flashlights, batons and a stun gun during the altercation, according to a statement released Tuesday. The cause of death has been deferred pending toxicology tests.
“I saw him, the police, kicking my brother while he was down on his knees,” the victim’s sister Diane Le told NBC4 on June 15.
Family members who tried to help the victim were told to stay away, Tu said.
After the altercation, Khoa Le was taken to Greater El Monte Community Hospital and pronounced dead around 12:20 a.m.
El Monte police Lt. Richard Cassetta deferred all comments to officials at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, who expressed their condolences in a news release.
The release stated that the officers involved in the issue had been placed on administrative reassignment -- which it called a standard response.
Lt. Holly Francisco from the sheriff’s homicide bureau told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune that the officers “did use physical force, including impact weapons,” though she contested the family’s claim that officers struck Le 20 times.
Diane Le called the police after her brother got into a heated argument with his father, Tu said, adding that she told the 911 operator that her brother had a mental health disorder. By the time officers arrived, Tu said, Khoa Le was calmly using his computer.
When discussing the family’s intentions, Tu drew similarities between Le’s and Thomas’ deaths, highlighting both men’s mental conditions at the time.
“They are similar cases,” Tu said in a phone interview with NBC4. “Both had mental disorders, both had no weapons, both did not have the capacity to fight with the police, and both were killed.”
Tu and Le’s family attended the El Monte city council’s meeting Tuesday night to protest the officers’ “excessive force” and demand councilmembers to address the issue.
"I called 911 for help. Instead of getting the help need, it turned out to be a death sentence," Diane Le told the council.
"Today is my brother’s birthday. Instead of celebrating at home, he is now dead," she added later.
El Monte Mayor André Quintero told the family on behalf of the city council that they extend "our deepest consolences" for the family's loss and recognized their request for a investigation by the city.
"Right now the investigation is in the sheriff’s hands; they’re conducting what we expect to be a thorough investigation and we look forward to getting those results, seeing what the results are and then taking appropriate actions," he said.
In the case of Kelly Thomas, three Fullerton council members were recalled after voters expressed disapproval with the way the council handled Thomas’ death, citing a lack of transparency and leadership as reasons to support the effort.
“The city needs to rectify this problem,” Tu said. “We don’t want this to happen to other families, where you call the police for help and they’re the ones who are beating to death -- especially with people with special mental conditions.”