Outrageous! Another case of police brutality! This time it’s the quiet little college town of Fullerton where police are under fire for repeatedly tasing and brutal beating of an unarmed, thirty-seven year old, homeless man on July 5. The suspect, Kelly Thomas, a schizophrenic and the son of a retired sheriff deputy, died five days later as a result of his injuries.
Police had received an unconfirmed report of a man breaking into cars near the bus depot. Officers responded and found Thomas in the area. Six officers surrounded the suspect, tasered him numerous times, kicked and kneed him in the head and allegedly struck him with their weapons and flashlights. They beat him so savagely that his face and head were covered with cuts and bruises and was grotesquely swollen. As Thomas lay in the parking lot, battered and bloody, he could be heard screaming for his dad.
The victim regularly hung around the downtown area and appeared to be known by many of the local businesses. People who knew Kelly say that although he suffered from a mental disorder, he was harmless and gentle. You could tell that he had some kind of problem, but not of a violent nature. It would make sense that police who patrol downtown would know him or know of him and his situation. So why did they react so violently towards him?
What really happen that evening nearly a month ago? Did the slightly built Kelly really offer so much resistance that such brutal force was necessary? Local citizens don’t think so. They are up in arms and calling for a thorough investigation as well as the resignation of the police chief. Even some city and county officials have joined the growing movement. Last Saturday more than 200 people joined together for a six hour protest in front of the Fullerton Police Dept to protest this blatant case of police brutality and release of videos that captured the beating.
Many who actually witnessed the beating believe the officers simply over-reacted and employed an unusually high degree of excessive force that was not called for. Initially the police dept reported that two officers had broken bones trying to restrain Thompson, making the need for excessive force necessary. But as coverage of the story went from the local to the national level, they retracted that statement and have since released very little information about the incident or the follow up investigation. Within days officers involved in the beating were reassigned to non-patrol duty and one was placed on administrative leave. As interest grew the remaining officers were also placed on administrative leave pending investigation. As of this week the FBI has joined the Orange County District Attorney’s office in an investigation of the case.
There is no doubt that the police department and the city would simply like this case to go away. It has brought the city too much unwanted negative publicity. Although the police Dept has admitted no wrongdoing and don’t intend to, an attorney representing the city has already offered the Thompson family a $900,000 settlement, even though they haven’t yet filed suit. A unnamed city official reportedly told the parents that they would have offered more money but their son was “no rocket scientist.”
Yeah they want this one to go away badly. But instead of working together to make it go away it seems that city officials, with comments like that are only digging a deeper hole. To add insult to injury last week the Fullerton chief of police who has been under fire to resign, reinstated all but one of the officers involved in the Thomas incident and allowed them to return to active duty. I’m not sure what he’s thinking, but if he thought he was under fire before, the defiant chief ain’t seen nothing yet. The chief continues to defend the actions of the officers and angrily attack the media for focusing on the story. Like I said I don’t think he’s seen anything yet.
In the meantime the Thomas family can only sit and patiently await justice for their son…..
Just a thought…