SANTA ANA (AP) — A false police report by a bar manager triggered events leading to a deadly confrontation between officers and a homeless man in Orange County, a former bouncer alleged in a lawsuit.
The bouncer, Michael Reeves, claimed he was wrongly fired from Fullerton's Slidebar Rock-n-Roll Kitchen after speaking out about the manager who called police July 5 and claimed that Kelly Thomas was breaking into cars when in reality he was picking up cigarette butts.
The case drew national attention because the fight between Thomas and police was captured on video and raised issues about whether officers are adequately trained to deal with the mentally ill.
Reeves, who filed his lawsuit Friday in Orange County Superior Court, claimed Slidebar employees had been told to do "whatever it takes" to keep the homeless man away.
Reeves said he lost work privileges and was fired in September after he stood up to the supervisor who made the call and spoke with a district attorney's investigator about it.
He is seeking at least $4 million in damages, according to a copy of the lawsuit obtained on Tuesday.
Eric Dubin, an attorney for Slidebar, said the allegations are false and Reeves was fired for becoming confrontational with a manager in front of bar customers.
Dubin said Reeves was not within earshot of the Slidebar employee who called police that night and said the former employee didn't mention any concern about the incident until he recently started seeking money from them.
Authorities say Fullerton police officers responded to a call about a man trying to open car doors and stopped Thomas in a nearby transit hub in what started out as a conversation and escalated into a bloody clash.
Thomas, who suffered from schizophrenia, was taken away by paramedics and died five days later.
His death stoked an outcry by residents, the recall of three councilmembers, an internal and FBI investigations and criminal charges against two of the officers.