Ofcr. Villicana takes the 5th:

Ofcr. Griffith taking the 5th:



The Killing of “Daddy Day Care”

Will Cost the City of Pasadena $1.5 million


This past week, Pasadena Police Department agreed to pay the family of Reginald Thomas $1.5 million to avoid trial on April 17, 2018.  After a year and a half of combative depositions, hearings and near bare-knuckled brawls, the “civil” wrongful death case involving the 35 year-old father of eight, affectionately known as “Daddy Daycare”, came to an end.

On March 26, 2018, the Pasadena City Council voted 8-0 in favor of the settlement 21 days after voting 4-4 against the settlement on March 5th.  As a cloud of disappointment fell over the Law Offices of Caree Harper that Pasadena Police officers: Aaron Villicana[1], Thomas Butler, Rafael Santiago, Phillip Poirier, Michael Orosco, and Robert Lee Griffin[2], would not face the allegations of excessive force in front of no-nonsense U.S. District Judge Otero in the federal court, the Plaintiffs and percipient witnesses to the killing Shainie Lindsay and her children breathed a sigh of relief because they would not have to relive that fateful night and they could finally move-on with their lives.  Lindsay, along with Reginald Thomas’ maternal grandmother (the person who raised him) Annie Harris, and the other two mothers of his children, Shenia Eldridge and Domonique Keaton all stood as one unit from beginning to end, are pleased with the outcome.  The family, however, has two enduring requests: 1.) the autopsy report associated with Mr. Thomas’ death be made public; and 2.) that District Attorney Jackie Lacey press criminal charges against Officer Aaron Villicana and the five other officers who they allege brutally murdered Reginald Thomas.


On September 30, 2016, Reginald Thomas experienced a mental or medical emergency and called 9-1-1 six times for assistance.  Mr. Thomas was standing at the front door of his girlfriend Shainie’s apartment holding a fire extinguisher in both hands and a pirate style knife under his left armpit.  Officers arrived and grossly over-tased Mr. Thomas, beat him with batons, fists, and kicked him in the head repeatedly.  Officer Villicana admitted in his compelled statement to PPD Internal Affairs investigators that he punched Mr. Thomas in the face repeatedly and with so much that he broke his hand.   He also admitted to kicking Mr. Thomas and hitting him with a baton multiple times. (Although Villicana made these admissions, they are not admissible in criminal proceedings because they were not brought out in open court and Villicana later asserted his 5th Amendment rights during his deposition).  A hobble restraint (aka “hogtie”) was placed on Mr. Thomas’ ankles and connected to the handcuffs on his wrists.  The officers pressed their body weight onto his torso.   All six defendant officers were seen by eyewitnesses punching and beating Thomas.  Mr. Thomas apparently suffocated and died, as a result of the restraint methods and force inflicted by no less than six Pasadena Police Department officers.   Experts differ as to conclusions that can be drawn from Mr. Thomas’ level of intoxication.


The following paragraphs briefly recount the incident and include comments by highly respected Use of Force Expert, Roger Clark:


On September 30, 2016 at approx. 2:50 A.M., Pasadena PD dispatch report reflected a radio transmission that Mr. Thomas was in custody. Therefore, Mr. Thomas was handcuffed and hobbled from 2:50 a.m. until 2:55 A.M., when it was broadcast that the hobble was being removed. It appears that from the initial tasering (2:48 a.m.) until the removal of Mr. Thomas’ hobble and handcuffs, that Mr. Thomas had no less than six Officers kneeling on him, placing body weight on him, tasing him, striking him, and forcing him into a prone position.


Excerpt from Officer Aaron Villicana’s Compelled interview on October 4, 2016, lines 250 - 585 included herein as Defendants filed Roger Clark’s report as an Exhibit therefore waiving the protected status of Villicana’s confession to internal affairs officers (unfortunately the other 5 officers are protected by one of many Protective Orders issued in the case)


Pasadena officer Aaron Villicana:

“I’m not satisfied with the way, uh, Officer (Orosco) is hitting him (Thomas) with the baton because I wanted it to be harder. That way we could go in and take care of the problem and overwhelm this man with - that’s armed with this fire extinguisher and/or this potential knife that I can’t see but I knew he had at some point. So I - I begin telling Officer (Orosco), “Hit him. Hit him. Hit him….

But somehow I – I holstered (handgun) and I deploy my baton. I’m the third one in so when the door opens, two officers are directly in front of me.  So I tell myself, I need to hit this guy hard and I need to make it precise and on spot… And the only thing that I could to defend - I could do to defend myself at that point, and my fellow officers that were there - I don’t know how many were in the room.  There was more than two though.  Um, the only way I could defend myself and them, and also protect him from being harmed further was to deliver two strikes, uh, kicks to his head to retrieve my baton.


But I strike him hard two or three times. I can’t tell you how many times I - I officially hit him. But I hit him two to three times with my baton. now I hear another Taser deployment.  And when I heard screaming, I looked at the family and they were still there.  And they were watching us.  And she was yelling at me,  “Why are you kicking him? Why are you hitting him with the baton? Why are you kicking him?” And so at that point, I knew it wasn’t good for the family or whoever that was - I’m assuming it was the family. Um, I told them to get out because it was not - this encounter was not good for them to see or anybody else to see. So I told - I yelled at them, I said, “Get out of here. Get in the courtyard and wait for us outside.” Somethin’ like that. I don’t know. I just yelled at ‘em and I told ‘em to get out. And I - I had my knee kind securing his chest in a way. My left knee…  And I had - I was in a - maybe, like, a catcher’s stance, is probably the best way I can describe it.  I see him coming up and I kind of have my right hand a little over his face. And he’s screaming and he’s yelling at the top of his lungs.  And he’s got his mouth open where my right hand was.  And when I noticed that, I - I saw his face coming up as if he may be trying to bite me at that point.  And so I delivered two strikes and that’s the injury you see here.  This is where I sustained this injury.  I delivered two strikes to his face to keep him down.   And so I delivered a strike.  It was, like, more of a hammer fist. Best way I could describe it, like a hammer fist.  And then I didn’t - what I remember, like, a straight punch down.  And when I punched down, I just felt discomfort.  I didn’t know what it was. But I just felt discomfort in my - in my, uh, in my hand.  I didn’t know that it was broke at that time.  I didn’t know ‘til hours later.  Um, as soon as that happens, I don’t know - I can’t tell you how he’s flipped on his stomach, but that was our goal.  Thinking back on it, um, a lot of the reasons why I didn’t verbalize stuff is because it was such a chaotic scene.


Mr. Thomas exhibited signs of intoxication, but never uttered a threat or aggressed on any officer.  Additionally, there was no urgent need to rescue persons in the apartment.  In this set of facts, at the initial encounter at the door nothing further than ‘Officer Presence - Verbal Skills’ appears as reasonable, opined police expert Roger Clark.   Mr. Clark was not critical of a coordinated tactical application of a Taser or O/C spray to temporally disarm Mr. Thomas’ possession of the fire extinguisher he held in both arms and the knife allegedly tucked under his armpit, however, the gross intensity and methods of force documented in the record was clearly excessive, in his opinion.


Roger Clark further stated that, “it is important to note that the autopsy reports trauma to Mr. Thomas’ head, which appears consistent with blows or kicks to Mr. Thomas’ head. Officers are trained that blows to the head can result in serious injury and death, and are not to use blows to the head absent the protection of life.  With six Officers present, and Mr. Thomas on the ground, no Officer’s life was in danger; therefore, any kicks or blows to the head of Mr. Thomas were out of policy, reckless, and excessive.


It is uncontested in the record that Officer Butler and Officer Orosco inflicted repeated multiple cycles of tasering from their Tasers into Mr. Thomas. The duration and number of the Taser cycles by Officer Butler and Officer Orosco, have been disclosed as 12 separate cycles totaling 57 seconds. Officer Butler fired his Taser 6 times for a total of 26 seconds over a 64 second period. Officer Orosco fired his Taser 6 times for a total of 31 seconds over a 44 second period. When Pasadena Fire Department (PFD) personnel arrived and treated Mr. Thomas - who was unresponsive. It must be noted that the PFD report stated that there were no less than three different Taser lines emanating from Mr. Thomas’ body.”   Clark stated in his expert report into the killing of Reginald Thomas.


He continued with, “agencies also need to be cognizant of how positional asphyxia may exacerbate the condition of any individual who has received an ECW application (Taser).  Positional asphyxia is a death that occurs when a subject’s body position interferes with breathing, either when the chest is restricted from expanding properly or when the position of the subject’s head obstructs the airway. Positional asphyxia has been mentioned as a possible contributing factor in a number of cases in which subjects died after one or more ECW applications. Police personnel should be trained to use a restraint technique that does not impair a subject’s respiration following an ECW application.


Expert Roger Clark:

"In my opinion, Officer Orosco’s and Officer Butler’s gross departure from the standards is reflective of the custom and practice of the PPD to endorse the gross over-dependence on the Taser weapon when other far more reasonable and appropriate methods of force (if actually necessary) should be deployed.  Mr. Thomas called 9-1-1 for medical help, was abruptly confronted by PPD Officers, was not combative, assaultive, and uttered no threats to any Officer. As such, Mr. Thomas did not fall under the “active combatant” rubric.  Although Mr. Thomas had a knife wedged in his armpit, and was holding a fire extinguisher, he did not make any sudden moves toward the Officers, or make any attempt to handle the knife. In my opinion, the use of a Taser in this instance grossly deviated from the POST and federal training that Officers Orosco and Butler had allegedly participated in and completed.


Officers are trained that because of the dangers of positional asphyxia, the Hobble Restraint Device must not be used to bind an individual’s hands to his/her feet in any manner. Additionally, the Hobble Restraint Device must never be applied to the head or neck of an arrestee. Once the handcuffs are secure and the Hobble Restraint Device has been applied to a suspect’s ankles, the suspect should be searched (if appropriate) and then immediately rolled into an upright, seated position.  Secured arrestees must never be placed in a recumbent; position causing them to lie on their stomach or side.   


The Pasadena Police Department can not be excused for apparently dissembling, ostensibly criminal uses of force against Mr. Thomas by the Officers in this case.”


In a stunning turn of events, Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez suddenly quit the department, effective: April 18, 2018 – the date he would have provided trial testimony in the Thomas wrongful death case. 


On January 12, 2018, Chief Sanchez walked out of his deposition with his attorney after questioning turned from the Reginald Thomas case to the more recent videotaped beating Christopher Ballew[3] where another Black man was beaten by Pasadena police officers.  Mr. Ballew survived the beating.  Soon to be former Chief Sanchez was heavily criticized after he did not discipline officers Mathew Griffin and Jeffrey Newlen who shot and killed unarmed Black teenager Kendrec McDade in March, 2012.  In the Reginald Thomas case, Chief Sanchez testified that he did not know anything about the details of the Thomas case, the defendant officers’ statements or witnesses statements.   When pressed about why he willfully chose not to know the details of the Thomas killing after a year and a half and the possibility of Villicana and the other defendant officers being rogue yet still on patrol, Chief Sanchez was unfazed.


[1] https://www.facebook.com/257322757673875/videos/1733305800075556/

[2] https://www.facebook.com/257322757673875/videos/1758167740922695/

[3] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/christopher-ballew-us-police-break-black-mans-leg-baton-video-arrest-california-pasadena-a8118316.html