Fullerton Assemblyman Chris Norby asked California Attorney General Kamala Harris to join investigations into the beating death of mentally ill transient Kelly Thomas by Fullerton police officers, according to a letter released Thursday.
Harris replied in a letter that her office traditionally leaves investigations involving police departments to local authorities, but she kept the door open for her office to take action depending on the outcome of ongoing probes.
In a letter to the Republican lawmaker dated Aug. 16, Harris restated the attorney general’s long-standing policy of allowing local agencies to handle issues involving police.
Norby’s chief of staff, Bryan Lanza, said Thursday he talked to the attorney general’s office about possibly joining investigations in Orange County into the July 5 beating of Thomas, 37, who was pronounced brain-dead five days later.
Citing the investigations by the district attorney and special investigator Michael Gennaco, Harris said involvement by her office wasn’t warranted “at this time.”
But, she added, “please be assured that we are closely monitoring these local investigations as well as the civil rights investigation being conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”
Norby was in Sacramento Thursday where the Legislature is in the final hours of this year’s session. He did not return a phone call seeking comment.
Various agencies are trying to determine whether a crime was committed by any of the six officers who violently subdued Thomas, using a stun gun “multiple” times, according to hospital records.
Thomas died as the result of “blunt trauma” to his head, according to the UC Irvine Medical Center reports released Wednesday by Garo Mardirossian, the Thomas family lawyer.
Norby has a complex relationship with the police department. His staff district director, Bruce Whitaker, is a member of the Fullerton City Council, and Whitaker was one of two council members to demand the resignation of Police Chief Michael Sellers after Thomas’ death.
Norby had his own encounter with Fullerton police last year. He was questioned after police were called to his home by a deliveryman who reported an argument between the lawmaker and his wife.
The police summary said Norby pushed his wife. Both Norbys said there had been no violence, and the district attorney’s office did not file charges.
— TRACY WOOD
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