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Embattled Fullerton police chief on medical leave

August 10, 2011 |  4:40 pm

Fullerton police chief on medical leave

This post has been corrected. Please see the note at the bottom for details.

Fullerton Police Chief Michael Sellers has taken a medical leave from his position amid calls for his resignation as six of his officers are being investigated for their role in the death of a homeless man.

Sellers had been under mounting pressure to answer questions about the night of July 5, when officers responding to reports of an attempted car break-in near the station confronted Kelly Thomas, a 37-year-old schizophrenic homeless man who had become a fixture in downtown Fullerton. Six officers fought Thomas and Tasered him several times, according to witness accounts. He died five days later after being removed from life support.

Two council members, Bruce Whitaker and Sharon Quirk-Silva, had called for Sellers to resign after he refused to provide some type of narrative about how Thomas died. He refused to share information with the City Council, council members said. Dozens of Fullerton residents criticized the council and Sellers, with some calling on city leaders to fire Sellers.

City Manager Joe Felz informed City Council members Wednesday that Sellers was taking a medical leave of absence. In his absence, Capt. Kevin Hamilton will take over command of the department.

Sellers' doctor placed him on medical leave, Felz said. It is unclear how long Sellers will be absent.

"We wish Chief Sellers well, and we appreciate his efforts on behalf of the city," Felz said in a statement.

The six officers involved remain on paid administrative leave.

For the record, 5:15 p.m. Aug. 10: An earlier version of this post said dozens of protesters called on the police chief to resign. It should have said that dozens of protesters criticized the chief and council, with some of them calling for his resignation.


Fullerton police death protested by hundreds

Fullerton police victim suffered brain injuries, father says

D.A.: No evidence Fullerton cops intentionally killed homeless man

-- Richard Winton and Abby Sewell

Photo: A crowd gathers in front of the Fullerton police station Sunday to protest the death of Kelly Thomas, a homeless man who died after an altercation with officers. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times