Family of Reginald Thomas Jr. Reaches $1.5-Million Lawsuit Settlement With Pasadena

Raquel Thomas, then 9, pays her respects in 2016 at a makeshift memorial for her father, Reginald Thomas Jr.

The city of Pasadena has settled a lawsuit with the family of Reginald Thomas Jr., an African American man who died after officers shocked him with a stun gun and restrained him in an altercation that later sparked protests.

If a judge approves the settlement, Pasadena has agreed to pay $1.5 million to the family without admitting “liability or fault in the matter” in connection with the 2016 incident, according to a statement released Sunday by the city.

The family filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in November 2016 alleging excessive use of police force and conspiracy to cover up evidence of officers’ recklessness.

Caree Harper, the attorney for the family when the lawsuit was filed, could not be reached for comment Sunday..

On Sept. 30, 2016, six Pasadena police officers responded to multiple 911 calls from “family members and others” at an apartment complex in the 200 block of East Orange Grove Boulevard, authorities said. They arrived to find Thomas, 35, outside the apartment door holding a fire extinguisher and a dagger under his arm. Four children and Thomas’ girlfriend were inside, authorities said, and before police arrived Thomas had sprayed the extinguisher inside the apartment.

Police said Thomas appeared to be under the influence of drugs, while the family maintained that he had a history of mental illness.

Thomas did not comply with orders to drop the dagger and fire extinguisher and slammed the apartment door on officers, authorities said. The officers then Tased and restrained him.

“A struggle ensued, Thomas later became unresponsive and the officers immediately commenced CPR,” the city’s statement says.

The father of eight died at the apartment complex.

“Expert investigators determined that Thomas’ death was not caused by the use of force by police in their efforts to restrain him, but rather by Thomas’ ingestion of lethal levels of illegal narcotics, including PCP and methamphetamine, which had caused his erratic behavior,” the city’s statement reads.

Meanwhile, none of the officers involved have been disciplined or placed on leave since Thomas’ death, city spokeswoman Lisa Derderian said in an email Sunday.

“Every use of force/incident review provides an opportunity for the department to consider whether changes to policies, procedures or tactics are warranted,” she wrote. “While this case will be no different, it’s important to understand that the city believes its officers acted appropriately, using less than lethal force, to safeguard the children trapped in the apartment with Mr. Thomas who was under the influence of both PCP and methamphetamine.”

The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office and the Pasadena Police Department are each conducting reviews of Thomas’ death, and the city hired the nonprofit Police Foundation to conduct an independent review, according to the city’s statement released Sunday.