Family sues police over ATM theft suspect's 2016 death

By Aaron Barker - Senior Digital Editor, Syan Rhodes - Anchor/Reporter

HEDWIG VILLAGE, Texas - The family of a man accused of trying to steal an ATM in Hedwig Village in May 2016 filed a lawsuit Tuesday accusing several police agencies in the man’s death.

Darrall Thomas was one of three men accused of trying to break into an ATM at a Bank of America on the Katy Freeway.

"I just want justice for Darrall," said his mother, Lakita Carr, during a news conference at the Harris County Civil Courthouse Tuesday.

Hedwig Village police, along with officers from Memorial Villages, Spring Valley Village and the Spring Branch Independent School District, responded to the scene. Officers said they found Thomas in a nearby creek, suffering from respiratory distress. Thomas was taken to a hospital, where he later died.

An autopsy by the Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office concluded that Thomas died from a toxic combination of ecstasy and other drugs.

But an autopsy performed by a private doctor hired by Thomas' family claims otherwise.

"The death of Darrall Thomas was not caused by combined drug effects of amphetamine and N-ethylpentylone as suggested by the medical examiner. With a lack of any major pathological findings, the cause and manner of death of Darrall Thomas is undetermined," wrote Dr. Michael Illiescu of Chandler, Arizona.

Illiescu said the number of drugs in Thomas' system was not enough to kill him and that more forensic investigation is needed.

The doctor believes Thomas' death might have been caused by asphyxiation, which the family believes was due to excessive force by police.

"The Harris County ME's report shows a lot of contusions marks on his body that was not there prior to that night, so there is evidence of force," said attorney Randy Kallinen. 

The family said two years later they still have questions and need answers.

"We'll be able to take the depositions of all of the officers who were out there and determine what exactly happened to Darrall Thomas because we do know that the official story is not the right story," Kallinen said. 

The agencies named in the suit said they had not yet been served and could not comment. 

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