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City has to pay $900,000 after police inflict 'psychological torture' on man to get false confession

City has to pay $900,000 after police inflict 'psychological torture' on man to get false confession

Police accused the man of murder - but the victim was alive and well

Warning: This article contains brief discussion of suicide which some readers may find distressing.

The city of Fontana in California agreed to pay $900,000 to a man who was 'psychologically tortured' into giving a false confession.

The report

The payment comes as the city settled a civil lawsuit filed on behalf of Thomas Perez Jr., who called the police in 2018 to report that his father, 71-year-old Thomas Perez Sr., had gone missing.

The elderly man had reportedly taken the family dog out for a walk at about 10pm on 7 August, 2018, but the dog returned just a few minutes later without his owner.

Perez insisted he didn't know where his father was, but investigators didn't believe him and launched into a 17-hour interrogation, during which they accused him of murdering his father.

Perez became distressed during the interrogation. (Fontana police)
Perez became distressed during the interrogation. (Fontana police)

The interrogation

Court records cited by The Sun show that detectives told Perez they'd found his father's body, and that it was now at the morgue.

They alleged they had evidence which showed Perez killed his father, but Perez insisted he had no knowledge of killing anyone.

In response, detectives argued he may have suppressed his memories.

At one point during the interrogation, the investigators allegedly threatened to euthanize Perez's dog, and brought her into the room to say goodbye.

One of the detectives asked Perez: “How can you sit there, how can you sit there and say you don’t know what happened, and your dog is sitting there looking at you, knowing that you killed your dad?

"Look at your dog. She knows, because she was walking through all the blood," they said.

Perez curled up with his dog on the floor, before eventually confessing to the crime.

He claimed he'd stabbed his father multiple times with a pair of scissors after his dad hit him over the head with a beer bottle.

Perez was arrested and handcuffed, but was transported to a mental facility for observation after he allegedly attempted to take his own life, after being left alone in the interrogation room.

There was just one issue, which came to light hours after Perez's confession.

Perez lay down with his dog during the interrogation. (Fontana Police)
Perez lay down with his dog during the interrogation. (Fontana Police)

The truth

It turned out Perez's father was not dead. Instead, he was at Los Angeles International Airport, where he planned to board a flight to go and see his daughter in Northern California.

Police did not immediately inform Perez that his father was alive, however, they did obtain a warrant to search his house for evidence that he had assaulted an 'unknown victim'.

No evidence appears to have been found.

The reasoning

In court documents and depositions which took place after the interrogation, police claimed they had reason to believe Perez had been lying when he initially reported his father missing.

They alleged he seemed 'unconcerned' in the 911 call, and that responding offers found the home in disarray.

A police dog is said to have smelled the scent of a corpse in Perez Sr's bedroom, and police also found small blood stains in the house.

Perez's father was alive and well. (Fontana Police)
Perez's father was alive and well. (Fontana Police)

The lawsuit

Lawyer Jerry Steering filed a civil lawsuit on behalf of Perez, alleging the officers had 'psychologically tortured' him and coerced a false confession without confirming that his father was dead.

Steering attributed the mess in Perez Sr's home to the fact Perez was renovating the house, and the blood stains to the father’s finger-prick diabetes tests.

The lawyer also claimed detectives refused to retrieve a number of medications Perez was taking for for high blood pressure, asthma, depression and stress for several hours.

In a summary of the case, written by U.S. District Court Judge Dolly Gee, Perez was described as becoming so distressed that he began pulling out his hair and tearing off his shirt during the interrogation.

“He was sleep deprived, mentally ill and significantly undergoing symptoms of withdrawal from his psychiatric medications,” Gee wrote.

Gee argued against police claims that Perez was free to go at any time as she wrote that 'circumstances suggested to Perez that he was not free to leave'.

The judge concluded that Fontana detectives had sufficient reason to believe an offense had been committed, though she criticized the tactics the officers had used.

She wrote: “A reasonable juror could conclude that the detectives inflicted unconstitutional psychological torture on Perez.

"Their tactics indisputably led to Perez’s subjective confusion and disorientation, to the point he falsely confessed to killing his father, and tried to take his own life.”

The city of Fontana settled the case recently for $900,000. Three of the officers who were involved in the interrogation are still employed with the department, while a fourth has retired.

UNILAD has contacted the city of Fontana for comment.

If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available through Mental Health America. Call or text 988 to reach a 24-hour crisis center or you can webchat at You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting MHA to 741741.

Featured Image Credit: Fontana police

Topics: US News, Crime, Money