Former Seal Beach Police Chief Michael Sellers took medical leave from his position at the helm of the Fullerton Police Department Wednesday after two City Council members called for him to resign over his handling of an investigation into the in-custody death of a homeless schizophrenic man.
Fullerton Police Chief Michael Sellers served as Seal Beach’s police chief from 1997 to 2005, and before that he was a captain in Los Alamitos.
Fullerton City Manager Joe Felz said he was told today that Sellers' doctor put him on leave for undisclosed reasons.
``We wish Chief Sellers well and are appreciative of his efforts in
behalf of the city,'' Felz said.
Council members Sharon Quirk-Silva and Bruce Whitaker had urged Sellers to resign following the fatal July 5 arrest of Kelly Thomas. Thomas was repeatedly tasered and suffered life threatening injuries in a scuffle with six police officers during the arrest. He was taken off life-support five days later.
According to police, Thomas allegedly resisted police who tried to detain him at the Fullerton Transportation Center at 123 S. Pomona Ave. on suspicion of possessing stolen goods. The officers were responding to a report of a man trying to break into vehicles.
Thomas' father, a retired Orange County sheriff's deputy, has called his son's death murder and called for the six officers involved to be prosecuted and sent to prison for the rest of their lives.
The officers are all on leave, but they have not been punished.
The Orange County District Attorney’s Office is Investigating the case and the FBI is monitoring that investigation In calling for his resignation, Quirk-Silva said Sellers did a poor job of communicating with the public after the violent arrest.
Whitaker told City News Service on Wednesday he faulted Sellers for not putting the officers involved on leave sooner. He also said he was stonewalled in his efforts to obtain information about the case as well as another one involving the suicide of a Fullerton jail inmate.
The councilman said he asked for a briefing on video cameras around the city, especially at the Metrolink lot where Thomas was arrested.
``So far, I have not received anything on that either,'' he said.
Felz was trying to organize a meeting this week to consider hiring
investigator and former prosecutor Michael Gennaco to do an independent, internal review of Thomas' death. But so far that has not been accomplished, and it appears more likely the council will consider the city manager's request at the council's regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday, Whitaker said.
Whitaker said he is considering whether it makes more sense to ask the state Attorney General's Office to do the internal review, because it would appear more impartial to the public and because it would save money, Whitaker said.
Hamilton said 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.''
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The City News Service Contributed to this report.