Sellers takes heat in Fullerton

Former Laguna Beach police chief is now on indefinite medical leave amid the public's demands for his resignation.

August 11, 2011|By Barbara Diamond,

Former Laguna Beach Police Chief Michael Sellers has taken an indefinite medical leave from his current position as Fullerton's police chief.

Before Wednesday's announcement, Fullerton officials and residents had been demanding Sellers' resignation following the death of a homeless schizophrenic man after a confrontation with police.

In her demand for Sellers' resignation, Fullerton City Councilwoman Sharon Quirk-Silva reportedly alluded to his failure to publicly represent the department, which is under investigation by local and federal officials for the handling of the case. Demonstrators have also demanded his resignation.


"In my opinion, a chief owes the council and the community an explanation of what he knows and why he took the actions he did after an incident this serious," said former Laguna Beach Police Chief Neil Purcell Jr. "When a guy dies, the community wants to hear from the police chief, not his second-in-command or his press representative."

Fullerton police Sgt. Andrew Goodrich has handled questions related to the death of Kelly Thomas, 37. Comments are limited by law while a case is under investigation.

Sellers was not available for comment and did not returned a phone call to his office.

"Mike has been a long-standing police chief in Orange County," said Paul Workman, who succeeded Sellers as chief of the Laguna Beach Police Department in 2009. "He is always professional and one of the most ethical man I know.

The Fullerton turmoil is not Sellers' first experience with a death that involved police officers under his command.

During his tenure in Laguna from 2005 to 2009, one man died in the city jail and two were killed in a shootout at the Montage Resort and Spa. Officers were exonerated in both cases.

Matthew Dunlevy, 25, died in 2006 while incarcerated for defying a police order to vacate a woman's restroom in a downtown restaurant.

The county coroner attributed Dunlevy's death to a lethal combination of alcohol and drugs.

However, Dunlevy's parents believed their son was murdered and filed a $12.5 million wrongful death suit.

The suit was settled, City Attorney Philip Kohn said.

In February 2007, Mission Viejo residents Joni and Kevin Park were shot to death in an armed standoff with police in their room at the Montage.

The shooting was determined by the Orange County district attorney's office to be justified, and a suit filed by the Parks' children was dropped.

Coastline Pilot Articles Coastline Pilot Articles