ACLU: DA “Incapable of Fair Investigation” in Thomas Case

The FBI and Orange County DA are investigating the death of a 37-year-old man after an altercation with Fullerton police

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.

Timeline: 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.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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