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Former Laguna police chief takes heat over beating death

August 04, 2011
(DON LEACH )

A Fullerton City Council member and angry residents have called for the resignation of Police Chief Michael Sellers, a former Laguna Beach police chief.

Sellers held the top cop position in Laguna Beach from 2005 to 2009.

Councilwoman Sharon Quirk-Silva called for the police chief's resignation Wednesday, criticizing the Police Department for refusing to answer questions about the homeless man who died after a violent confrontation with six police officers last month.

"This, I think, historically is the most tragic thing that has happened in Fullerton, the biggest crisis," said Quirk-Silva, who formally asked Fullerton City Manager Joe Felz to call on Sellers to resign. "That means you're out front, giving the public what information you can give."

At Tuesday night's council meeting, hundreds of angry citizens jammed into the overflowing council chambers, criticizing police for the death of Kelly Thomas, 37, and demanding that the city explain what happened.

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On Wednesday, in response to the increasing chorus of public criticism, the police department issued a terse statement: "This was tragic for our community. We are in the midst of an investigation."

The calls for Sellers to step down came despite the chief's action Tuesday to place all of the officers involved on administrative leave. One of the officers had been placed on leave shortly after the incident. The others were reassigned to non-patrol duty Friday but not placed on leave until Tuesday. The city has not released their names.

Kelly Thomas' father, Ron Thomas, who met with the chief Tuesday, said he agreed that Sellers should step down.

Sellers has not commented on the calls for him to resign.

On the night of July 5, six officers allegedly beat Thomas, a homeless man with a history of schizophrenia, until he was comatose. He died five days later after being removed from life support.

—From LATimes.com reports

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