Man Who Reported His Dad Missing Was Coerced into Confessing to Murder — Yet Father Was Alive

A California city has agreed to pay Thomas Perez, Jr. a $900,000 settlement after he filed a lawsuit for being mistreated during an interrogation

<p>Fontana Police Department/KCAL News/YouTube</p> Thomas Perez Jr. being interrogated by the Fontana Police Department

Fontana Police Department/KCAL News/YouTube

Thomas Perez Jr. being interrogated by the Fontana Police Department

For 17 hours in 2018, police in Fontana, Calif., mercilessly interrogated Thomas Perez, Jr., about his missing father, telling him repeatedly that he murdered his father, whose body they claimed was laying in the morgue, court records show.

“You murdered your dad,” one of the officers said, according to a video of the interrogation obtained by the Los Angeles Times. “Daddy’s dead because of you.”

After telling him his beloved Labrador Retriever would be euthanized as a stray, and even bringing the dog into the interrogation room so Perez could say goodbye, Perez became so distraught that he falsely confessed to killing his father, according to court records, the Orange County Register reports.

Remanded for three days to a psychiatric ward for allegedly trying to take his own life in the interrogation room, Perez later learned his father was alive — something police had withheld from him, court records show, according to the Register.

Now, nearly six years later, the city of Fontana has agreed to pay a $900,000 settlement to Perez, who filed a federal lawsuit alleging that he was mistreated during the interrogation, his attorney announced, the Register reports.

“Mentally torturing a false confession out of Tom Perez, concealing from him that his father was alive and well, and confining him in the psych ward because they made him suicidal, in my 40 years of suing the police I have never seen that level of deliberate cruelty by the police,” Perez’s attorney Jerry Steering said, the Register reports.

On Aug. 7, 2018, Perez called police when his father, Thomas Perez Sr., 71, failed to return home after walking their dog at about 10 p.m., court records show, CBS News reports. The dog came home, he said, but his father did not.

The next day, detectives with the Fontana Police Department questioned him about his father’s disappearance at police headquarters, according to court records, the Register reports.

Perez told police he and his father had gotten into an argument that night. Police said they found blood stains in their home, as well as his father’s wallet and phone, court records show.

Perez’s father, it turns out, was at Los Angeles International Airport because he was flying to visit his daughter in northern California, the Register reports.

According to a summary of the case written by U.S. District Court Judge Dolly Gee, Perez was so upset by the line of questioning that he pulled out his hair, hit himself and tore off his shirt, the Register reports.

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

“A reasonable juror could conclude that the detectives inflicted unconstitutional psychological torture on Perez,” Gee wrote. “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.”

Perez was able to get his dog back by tracking the microchip implanted inside the animal, the Register reports.

The city of Fontana and the Fontana Police Department did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

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