Police chief on medical leave after homeless death

AP News
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Posted: Aug 10, 2011 11:51 PM
Police chief on medical leave after homeless death

A Southern California police chief who has come under fire since the death of a homeless man who had a violent confrontation with officers was placed on medical leave Wednesday.

Fullerton City Manager Joe Felz said he didn't have details on police Chief Michael Sellers' medical condition. But he said in a statement that the decision came after advice from Sellers' doctor.

The homeless man, Kelly Thomas, was taken off life support on July 10, five days after the bloody encounter with police. The officers were investigating reports of someone burglarizing cars at a transit hub and tried to search Thomas' backpack when they got into a fight with him.

The death sparked outrage in Fullerton, prompting two city council members and dozens of citizens to call on Sellers to step down.

Sellers' physician will contact Felz in 30 days with an assessment of the chief's condition, along with a recommendation on when _ or if _ Sellers can return to work, Felz told The Orange County Register.

Capt. Kevin Hamilton, commander of the department's detective division, was appointed acting police chief in Sellers' absence. The 53-year-old has been a Fullerton police officer since 1979, and has worked in several department divisions, including patrol, traffic investigation, narcotics, SWAT and the detective bureau. He was promoted to captain in 2010.

The city has "very important issues we have to deal with in light of the Kelly Thomas incident, and we will work with investigators from the District Attorney's Office and the FBI, who are looking into the incident," Hamilton said in a statement.