Pasadena to Pay $1.5M to Family of Man Who Died in Police Custody

Reginald Thomas died Sept. 30, 2016, following a struggle with the Pasadena police outside his apartment

Family members of a man who died after a struggle with Pasadena police officers -- possibly of a drug overdose -- have reached a $1.5 million settlement with that city, ending a federal lawsuit, the city announced Sunday.

Reginald Thomas died Sept. 30, 2016, following a struggle with the Pasadena police outside his apartment, in the 200 block of East Orange Grove Boulevard. Thomas was seen acting erratically officers, carrying a fire extinguisher and dagger, and refused to put them down, police said.

Pasadena police and the city, in approving the settlement, said they "do not admit liability or fault in the matter." The city council unanimously approved settlement at its meeting last Monday, and lawyers have since been finalizing the settlement agreement, according to an announcement from the city Sunday.

In that statement, the city said its police were trying to protect Thomas' wife and four small children during that early-morning disturbing the peace call. They observed Thomas act as if he were under the influence of drugs, and he sprayed the fire extinguisher on one of the children, the city statement said.

The family's attorney, Caree Harper, released a statement Sunday evening.

"Please note the injuries to Mr. Thomas's body and 5 Taser wounds," Harper's statement said. "Mr. Thomas was kicked repeatedly in the head by Officer Aaron Villicana, punched, hit with a baton by multiple and asphyxiated, but Pasadena PD would like you to believe they paid $1.5 million because he overdosed? What are they smoking? And why did the number one villain plead the 5th?"

The city's narrative states that police instructed Thomas to drop the dagger and fire extinguisher numerous times. And when he did not comply, Thomas was hit with a shock device, but a struggle broke out.

"Thomas later became unresponsive and the officers immediately commenced CPR," the city said Sunday. "Paramedics from the Pasadena Fire Department were called and, upon arrival, took over CPR efforts."

The city said Thomas was declared dead at 3:26 a.m. that day. The city said its "expert investigators" determined Thomas' death was caused by PCP and methamphetamine in his blood, not by police actions.

Despite those assertions, U.S. District Court Judge S. James Otero urged the City will pay the family $1.5 million to settle all claims. The judge must still approve the settlement.

The city pointed out that the police actions remain under review by the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office. Pasadena officials also said the police department is reviewing if the officers acted within policy.

The city has also hired the Washington-based non-profit Police Foundation to review the police response and policies.

"City officials convey condolences to Mr. Thomas' family and friends," the statement concluded.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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