A mentally ill homeless man who died following a confrontation with Fullerton police officers suffered broken bones in his face, choked on his own blood and was repeatedly shocked with two stun guns, a lawyer for the man's family said Wednesday.
Attorney Garo Mardirossian released Kelly Thomas's medical records from the University of California, Irvine, Medical Center, which treated Thomas after the July 5 struggle until he was declared brain dead five days later.
Mardirossian singled out the actions of one of the six officers, whom he did not name, as causing the most egregious injuries. The lawyer said witnesses described seeing the officer using a Taser stun gun like a club.
The officer "held it sorta like a pistol and pistol-whipped him repeatedly by pounding him on his head," Mardirossian said at a news conference. "As he did that, he caused serious injury and eventual brain death."
The violent clash came as officers were investigating reports of someone burglarizing cars at a transit hub in suburban Fullerton, a city of about 135,000 in Orange County. A fight broke out as officers tried to search Thomas' backpack.
The death of Thomas, who suffered from schizophrenia, sparked outrage in Fullerton and beyond, prompting two city council members and dozens of citizens to call on police Chief Michael Sellers to step down. He went on medical leave last month.
None of the officers have been arrested and no charges have been filed against them. The city council has since hired the head of the Los Angeles County Office of Independent Review, which oversees the sheriff's department, to act as a contractor and conduct an internal investigation into the death.
The district attorney and federal authorities are also investigating.
"The matter that was discussed at the press conference this morning is between the DA's office, the coroner's office and the family," said Fullerton city spokeswoman Sylvia Palmer. "There's no comment at this time."
The Orange County coroner has not released an autopsy report.
Susan Kang Schroder, chief of staff for the Orange County District Attorney's office, said it is impossible to draw any conclusions without the coroner's report.
"They're allowed to use force," Schroder said of police officers in general. "There's no question if there was force used. That doesn't answer the legal question of whether force was excessive or not."
Mardirossian said Thomas was shot with darts from two stun guns, one set hitting his chest area, the other his back. As officers "pounded" Thomas's face, the breaking bones caused internal bleeding that flowed into his lungs, he said.
In citizen videos capturing audio of the attack, Thomas can be heard yelling for his father and that he couldn't breathe, Mardirossian said. The hospital report states Thomas suffered respiratory failure and eventually renal failure.
"The medical evidence will show that all that blood is what he ended up choking on," the attorney said. "His own blood."
Associated Press writer Amy Taxin in Santa Ana contributed to this report.
Watkins can be reached at http://twitter.com/thomaswatkins.