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Pasadena police release names of officers involved in deadly struggle with Reginald Thomas Jr.

Grainy security footage shows parts of a confrontation between Reginald Thomas Jr. and Pasadena police officers on Sept. 30. Thomas died after officers shocked him with a stun gun.

The Pasadena Police Department has released the names of six officers who were involved in an altercation with Reginald Thomas Jr., a black man who died after officers shocked him with a stun gun and restrained him at an apartment complex last month.

In a statement issued Sunday, the department said the following police officers responded to a pre-dawn 911 call Sept. 30: Thomas Butler, Robert Griffith, Michael Orosco, Philip Poirier, Raphael Santiago and Aaron Villacana.

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Shortly after Thomas was restrained, Officer Jeffrey Newlen arrived and assisted with CPR, the department said.

Also on Monday, an attorney representing Thomas' family told the Los Angeles Times that she had filed a claim with the city. Attorney Caree Harper said last week that the family planned on filing a civil rights lawsuit alleging excessive use of force. The filing of a claim is a precursor to a lawsuit.

Pasadena police received a call about 2:45 a.m. that day that was "made by a minor requesting assistance with a family disturbance" involving Thomas, who was "armed with a knife and a fire extinguisher," according to the statement.

Authorities released grainy security camera video and the audio of a 911 call in which a brief struggle can be heard over the phone. A male caller identified Thomas as his brother and said he was in the doorway, had a knife and was holding it under his armpit, but had not threatened those in the apartment with it.

When the operator asked if Thomas had "any mental conditions," the caller didn't know, but said that Thomas was on drugs.

"He's high, though. I can tell that," he said.

Later, the male caller added that Thomas was known to be violent.

Patricia Thomas, 11, left, and Raquel Thomas, 9, pay their respects at a makeshift memorial for their father, Reginald Thomas, who died after being Tasered by Pasadena police.
Patricia Thomas, 11, left, and Raquel Thomas, 9, pay their respects at a makeshift memorial for their father, Reginald Thomas, who died after being Tasered by Pasadena police. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

When officers arrived at the apartment complex, Orange Grove Gardens, in the 200 block of East Orange Grove Boulevard, Thomas was "still armed with the knife and fire extinguisher," according to the police statement.

Thomas refused to cooperate with police, who told him to drop the knife and fire extinguisher. Thomas went back into the apartment and "attempted to barricade himself," authorities said. Officers fired their Tasers, which "temporarily incapacitated Mr. Thomas," according to the Police Department.

"As a result, a physical altercation ensued between Mr. Thomas and the officers," the statement read. "Officers were eventually able to restrain him inside the apartment. Upon restraining Mr. Thomas, the officers observed him not breathing — at which time, they immediately began CPR and life-saving measures."

Grainy security footage showed the officers walking to the door, but the actual confrontation could not be seen.

The Pasadena Fire Department received a call at 3 a.m. from police about a man not breathing, spokeswoman Lisa Derderian told The Times.

Thomas was pronounced dead at the scene, authorities said.

The death of an African American man who relatives say suffered from mental illness quickly sparked discord in this predominantly minority, working-class community.

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Thomas' body remained in the apartment complex for several hours as detectives conducted their investigation, and as demonstrators gathered and shouted at police.

As a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department captain spoke with reporters outside the gate of the low-income apartment complex, scores of protesters shouted "Killers!" and swore at officers. Dozens of protesters stood outside the apartment complex for most of the day.

Thomas, the father of eight children, was known to his family by the nickname "Daddy Daycare." He doted on his children, ages 3 to 11, and he couldn't wait to meet his baby boy due in a few months and, despite struggles with mental illness, managed to stay positive, his family said.

Thomas' death is being investigated by the sheriff's Homicide Bureau, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office and the coroner's office, authorities said. The Pasadena Police Department also is conducting an administrative investigation.

Caree Harper, an attorney representing Thomas' family, has said witnesses saw Thomas kicked in the head and hit by a baton.

She said the sheer weight and mass of the six officers jumping on him might have led to his death. Harper said that, according to witnesses, Thomas dropped the knife after the stun gun darts hit him the first time. She said the department knew of his struggles with mental health and should have done more to de-escalate the situation.

Twitter: @haileybranson

Times staff writers Veronica Rocha and Richard Winton contributed to this report.

UPDATES:

2:15 p.m.: This article was updated with details on the filing of a claim with the city of Pasadena.

This article was originally published at 9:55 a.m.

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