Federal Civil Rights Lawsuit Filed Against Pasadena, Police Chief and Officers for In-Custody Death of Local Man

Published : Friday, November 18, 2016 | 4:05 PM

Reginald "JR" Thomas

The attorney representing survivors of a man who died in police custody last September 30 has provided this publication with a copy of a federal civil rights lawsuit she filed Friday against the City of Pasadena, Chief of Police Phillip Sanchez and 10 police officers.

36-year-old Pasadena resident Reginald Thomas, Jr., died after he reportedly confronted police who were called to his apartment in the 2o0 block of East Orange Grove Boulevard at about 2:36 a.m. in the morning, Pasadena police and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s officials have said.

Attorney Caree Harper filed the suit in California Central District federal court on behalf of Thomas’ 86-year-old grandmother and three women with whom Thomas had fathered eight children; the women, Shainie Lindsey, Shenia Eldridge , and Dominique Keaton, are named in the suit as the children’s guardians.

An eyewitness account from Lindsey differs with what is known of the official version. Los Angeles County Sheriff’s homicide investigators reviewing the incident have said publicly that that Thomas was Tasered twice before he was subdued after a physical fight with officers.

Shortly after Thomas was restrained at the ankles and then handcuffed, officers noticed he was not breathing, authorities have said. Pasadena Fire Department paramedics responded, determining that Thomas was dead at the scene.

Harper’s federal civil rights lawsuit alleges, among other complaints for damages, that the officers used excessive force, provided inadequate medical care for Thomas resulting in his death, and violated Thomas’ constitutional civil rights.

The officers listed as defendants by Harper in the civil rights lawsuit vary from those on a list of officers the Pasadena Police Department has said were at the scene. In an October 9 statement, Pasadena police identified Officers Thomas Butler, Robert Griffith, Michael Orosco, Philip Poirier, Raphael Santiago and Aaron Villacana as having responded to the 911 call from the apartment complex in which Thomas lived. The police statement went on to say that after Thomas had been restrained, Officer Jeffrey Newlen arrived at the location and assisted with CPR.

Harper’s lawsuit names three additional defendants whom Pasadena police have not confirmed were at the scene: Officer Matthew Griffin, a “Sgt. Aguilar,” and Corporal Susan Gomez.

The lawsuit asks for unspecified compensatory damages, for funeral and burial expenses compensation, loss of financial support damages and court and attorney’s costs.

It also asks the court for “punitive damages against the individual defendants.”

City of Pasadena spokesperson William Boyer said he could not comment on the lawsuit, saying the City had not yet received the documents as of late Friday.

Pasadena Now has repeatedly sent emails, placed phone calls and left messages for Sheriff’s Department investigators for updates in connection with the investigation, but has not received a single acknowledgement or response.

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