Two men who pulled a man wielding a sledgehammer off an elementary school fence and beat him are being investigated for his death after the coroner’s office ruled it a homicide, police said Thursday.
Police now say that 49-year-old John Thompson of Long Beach died at McKinley Elementary School in North Long Beach shortly after two men punched and kicked him in an effort to disarm and detain him before officers arrived.
The incident started when officers were called around 2:30 p.m. after Thompson made a false police report about a home invasion robbery in the 6700 block of Orizaba Avenue, according to the Long Beach Police Department. When officers responded to the area, which is near the elementary school, a community member told them about a man with a sledgehammer and directed them to McKinley Elementary School, police said.
Thompson, according to police, had been wielding a sledgehammer, and already climbed one fence around a campus parking lot where he tried to climb a second fence to get onto school grounds. A man saw him, pulled him down and at least two men followed up by attacking Thompson, according to police.
“This is consistent with video evidence and the preliminary findings of the Medical Examiner’s office who determined the manner of death is homicide,” according to the LBPD, who said they recovered a small sledgehammer at the scene.
At some point, Thompson became unresponsive and went into cardiac arrest, according to authorities. Upon realizing this, officers, who had handcuffed Thompson, rendered aid and called paramedics who determined he had died, police said.
Though police interviewed the two men, no arrests were made pending further investigation, according to authorities. The men were not identified, and it was not clear whether they had a connection to the school.
Because Thompson was handcuffed at the time, the LBPD are still classifying the incident as an in-custody death, police said, adding that no force was used by officers in the incident.
The incident comes after parents were left concerned last week when a man outside the school fence at McKinley reportedly pointed a gun at an 8-year-old girl. A suspect was arrested in the case, and inmate records show he remains in custody. Still, detectives are working to determine whether there is any connection between the two incidents.
Detectives are still actively reviewed the case and anticipate presenting the case to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office in the future, police said.
In the meantime, LBPD has increased patrols around the elementary school, including the deployment of the Neighborhood Safety Bike Team, and detectives are requesting for anyone with information to contact authorities at 562-570-7244.