The relatively swift release of the surveillance footage was intentional, Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez said at a news conference Friday evening.
“There have been national events recently that the video has been a flash point,” Sanchez said. “From my perspective, releasing the video reduces angst and allows the community to see what we have seen, and they can draw their own conclusion based on that information.
“If that effort reduces the likelihood that one of my officers is injured or assaulted, as we’ve seen in Dallas or other areas of the United States, or it safeguards my public — preserves life or otherwise prevents property destruction — then I think it’s the prudent thing to do in this instance based on the totality of these circumstances.”
In Charlotte, the delay in releasing videos showing the shooting death of a black man by police sparked several nights of sometimes-violent protests in September.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is investigating and will turn over its findings to the Los Angeles County district attorney. Homicide detectives canvassed the area Friday, but “there’s much more to be done” in the investigation, Capt. Steve Katz of the sheriff’s department’s homicide bureau said at a news conference Friday evening.
Sanchez said his department would also conduct a review of what occurred. “Any time there’s a loss of life in Pasadena we take that very seriously,” he said. “We try to do our best to vet the issues following our normal protocols.”
The sheriff’s department and police said they did not have further updates Saturday morning.
As of Saturday afternoon, the identity of the man had not been released, but the Los Angeles Times and other local outlets identified the man as Reginald Thomas, a father of eight whom many called “Junior,” according to relatives and neighbors.
The incident happened early Friday morning, when police received a domestic disturbance call at a Pasadena apartment complex around 2:30 a.m.
According to audio from the 911 call, the caller identified himself as Thomas’s brother, and said Thomas was standing in the doorway with a knife.
When the dispatcher asked the caller if the knife-wielding man had any mental conditions, the caller said he did not know.
“He’s high, though,” the caller said. “I can tell that.”
The caller asked the dispatcher to send officers quickly, although he said his brother had not threatened anyone yet. The caller added that his brother had been known to be violent in the past.
When officers arrived, they found a black man armed with a knife who, according to police, “did not comply with officers’ orders” as he tried to re-enter an occupied apartment.
In an attempt to disarm the man, officers used a Taser on him and a fight ensued, police said. After restraining him, the same officers noticed the man was not breathing and began CPR and other lifesaving measures until paramedics arrived.
Sanchez said a total of eight officers responded to the scene. Two officers suffered minor injuries — one to the hand, another to the knee — but are expected to fully recover, he said.
The dark and grainy video does not have audio or show the reported fight in any detail, though it does indicate many officers were at the front door, with one rushing through the courtyard in the middle of the commotion.
The man died at the scene, according to a statement from the city.
Despite the 911 call saying Thomas was acting violent, other family members said he was not violent, despite having a long history of mental illness, the AP reported.
On Friday night, more than 100 people marched through Old Town Pasadena protesting the death, holding signs with messages like “Stop killing us!” and “Black Lives Matter,” according to several local news stations.
Shainie Lindsay, identified as Thomas’s partner, told NBC Los Angeles she was “hurt, disgusted, disappointed and just upset.”
Lindsay told the news station she believed officers used excessive force. “They knew he was disabled, they knew he was bipolar, they knew he was on Social Security, and they still killed him,” she told the NBC affiliate.
Forrest Elder, Lindsay’s brother, told the Pasadena Star-News that Thomas had eight children, four of them with Lindsay.
“He was all for them (the children),” Elder told the paper. “They call him ‘Daddy Day Care.’”
“He was struggling with mental illness, but the police know this,” Elder told the AP. “But he wasn’t treated as a patient or a victim. He was treated as a suspect, and that’s how they treat us.”
The death in Pasadena took place on the heels of an officer-involved shooting in El Cajon, Calif., earlier in the week. In that case, police fatally shot Alfred Olango, an unarmed black man they said took a “shooting stance” after Olango’s sister had reported that he was walking in traffic and “not acting like himself.”
Relatives described as Olango as “mentally challenged,” and his death sparked angry protests in the San Diego suburb.
Mental health issues are a factor in about a quarter of fatal police shootings, according to a Washington Post database tracking such incidents nationwide. At least 719 people have been shot and killed by police this year. In 2016, at least 172 of those who have died had mental health issues.
Police are on pace to shoot to death about the same number of people this year as last year, when officers fatally shot nearly 1,000 people. People with reported mental health issues account for about 1 in 4 of the fatal shootings this year, the same share as last year.
Experts say such shootings highlight the issue of how often police are called to respond to people in mental or emotional crisis — and whether police training adequately prepares them to handle those calls.
In most cases last year where people with reported mental illnesses were fatally shot by police, police were responding because relatives or bystanders were worried about the person behaving erratically; last year, this included dozens of explicitly suicidal people.
Mark Berman contributed to this report.