After Reginald Thomas, a father of four with bipolar disorder, called the police early Friday morning in obvious distress. Between the time Pasadena police officers showed up and the time they left, Thomas was tased twice, hobbled, and died after allegedly fighting with the officers. As is so often the case in these incidents, the police department of Pasadena, a city of nearly 140,000 in Los Angeles County, is saying Thomas' death is justified because he failed to comply with officers' orders and tried to re-enter his apartment. His partner, Shainie Lindsey, who is pregnant with their fifth child, has different views of what happened. "He was a good father, and they didn’t have to kill him," she told KTLA. "He didn’t want to die."
Protesters took to the streets of Pasadena Friday, demanding the names of the officers involved and that police stop killing unarmed black men. The police department has not released the names of the involved officers, but did release surveillance footage and recordings of the 911 call Saturday.
After a clearly distressed Thomas refused to let officers into his apartment, police officers tased him twice and began beating him. “They was wrestling with him, was kicking him in the head and beating him with the baton stick,” Lindsay told KTLA. “Then, after that, they was doing CPR and then he was dead.” There has been significant tension between the Pasadena Police Department and communities of color for years, though it has risen since the 2012 police shooting of Kendrec McDade, an unarmed black 19-year-old. A recent investigation into the shooting found the Pasadena Police Department mishandled the case from the beginning.
Police departments often misuse Tasers, a 2015 Guardian investigation found. If police forces follow federal guidelines for their use, there is often no long-lasting health impact, but many law enforcement agencies use Tasers repeatedly, which can often lead to deadly results. According to the Guardian's database, 17 people have been killed by police with Tasers in 2016. At least six of them—Danny Cupps Jr. in Birmingham, Alabama; Nancy Friedrich in Tarrant County, Texas; Christopher Erdman in Bradeton, Florida; Torrey Robinson in New Port Richey, Florida; Michael Roll in Bowling Green, Kentucky; and Inocencio Cardenas Jr. in Donna, Texas died after being tased by police at least twice.
Sam Stecklow is the Weekend Editor for Fusion.