The death of an unarmed black man who allegedly fought with six police officers in Pasadena early today has drawn impromptu protests to Southern California's City of Roses.
Under department protocol, Pasadena police have asked detectives from the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department and the District Attorney's Office to investigate.
The confrontation began about 2:20 a.m. when cops were dispatched to the 200 block of East Orange Grove Boulevard based on a report of a "domestic disturbance," city of Pasadena spokesman William H. Boyer said in a statement.
The deceased's partner, Shainie Lindsay, told reporters at the scene that the victim, whom she identified as Reginald Thomas Jr., had called authorities because "he just wanted help." She described him as a person with mental illness and bipolar disorder. She also suggested that police — at least some officers — had contacted him in the past and should have known his background.
"He was a good father, and they didn’t have to kill him," she said. "He didn’t want to die."
Cops said the man was "armed with a knife" and "did not comply with the officers' orders as the suspect attempted to re-enter an occupied apartment at the location," Boyer stated.
"Pasadena officers deployed a Taser in an effort to disarm the suspect, and a fight ensued," he said. "The suspect was ultimately subdued by police. Upon restraining the suspect, the officers observed him not breathing, at which time CPR and life-saving measures were implemented. The officers continued CPR until the arrival of Pasadena fire paramedics, who continued to render aid. Despite the efforts of officers and paramedics, the suspect died at the scene."
Lindsay, who said she has children with Thomas, said he also had a fire extinguisher in hand as cops confronted him. She claims officers hit him with batons and kicked him after he dropped the extinguisher.
Lindsay said her partner did not immediately comply with police because "he was just out of it, basically."
Critics of police killings of African-American men, including representatives of the Black Lives Matter movement, quickly rallied in Pasadena today. The death happened the same day El Cajon police released two video clips of this week's fatal officer shooting of an unarmed black man in the San Diego suburb.
Law enforcement has struggled with how to deal with the mentally ill. El Cajon police said they work with Psychiatric Emergency Response Team clinicians in the field but that they were "on a different radio call" when officers confronted a mentally ill man, Alfred Olango, who pointed a vaporizer at cops before he was fatally shot Tuesday.
Meanwhile, civil rights leader Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, says he began fruitful discussions with Pasadena police Chief Phillip L. Sanchez in 2012 after his officers fatally shot an unarmed black teen, Kendrec McDade.
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"I've been impressed with what he has said," Hutchinson told us. "Unlike other departments he has been very clear on when to and when not to use force. He has vowed to have full transparency, disclosure and accountability of what this department does. He's had a good relationship with civil rights organizations. But this is a litmus test.
"Since this department and chief have these clear guidelines on when to use and when not to use excessive force, it seems to me these officers violated these policies, and you have to address that," Hutchinson said. "What's the punishment going to be?"
ADDED at 4:58 p.m. Friday, Sept. 30, 2016: The L.A. Sheriff's Department released a statement confirming its routine investigation of the fatality. Here's the department's description of what happened:
The officers gave verbal commands for the male to drop both items. The male did not comply, at which time a Taser was deployed, causing the male to drop the items. The male was still not cooperative with the verbal commands given by the officers, and a second Taser was deployed, which seemed to have little effect on the male.
Pasadena officers got into a physical struggle with the male, where he still continued to be uncooperative. The officers applied a hobble restraint around the male’s feet, in order to control his legs. The male was then taken into custody.
While in custody the suspect went into distress, and stopped breathing. Pasadena officers immediately started cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) until Pasadena Fire/Paramedics arrived. Paramedics continued CPR until the suspect was pronounced dead at the scene.