California Town Demands Justice After Homeless Man's Death

Friday, August 05, 2011

Last month, six police officers in Fullerton, Calif., attacked 37-year-old Kelly Thomas, a homeless man with mental health problems. Witnesses say the police used excessive and brutal force in their attack, tasering Kelly at least five times. Thomas died later in hospital. Now, his father and Fullerton residents are demanding justice for his death, as evidence builds that police were overly forceful. Two videos uploaded to YouTube and Fullerton-based websites show witnesses’ reaction to the police action. In one video, the clicking sound of a Taser can be heard.

Ron Thomas, the father of Kelly Thomas, is a former deputy sheriff in Orange County, California, is seeking justice for his son. Tracy Wood, a senior journalist with Voice of OC, speaks about what's happening in Fullerton.


Ron Thomas and Tracy Wood

Produced by:

Duncan Wilson

Comments [6]

Malik King

My condolences to the Thomas family. I am truly sorry for your lost, for I was almost murdered in the same fashion, under the same color of authority, in the same Orange County just four months prior.

On March 9, 2011 several Police brutally ordered a K-9 to attack an unarmed, California Registered (RN) and Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN). The California Highway Patrol in Orange County then attempted to cover up the incident.

Malik King, a reportedly “LVN since the age of nineteen” and California Registered Nurse since twenty three years of age, is said to have initially attempted to steal a car. Later it was found he was the owner of that Mercedes. What ensued next on the part of several officers goes well beyond the bounds of simply trying to subdue their suspect.

The several police officers ordered a police K-9 to attack him while he was still fastened in his seat-belt, tasered multiple times while the K-9 attack continued for over one minute and thirty seconds, then hand cuffed, slammed to the ground, hog tied, beat and kicked in the head until unconscious. He was then taken to jail, accused of multiple felonies, and had to pay $50,000 for bail.

Despite witnesses and the clear brutality of the beating, tasering, and ordered dog attack, California Highway patrol allowed several officers to remain active and attempted a cover-up.

Violations of federal law occur when it can be shown that the force used was willfully “unreasonable” or “excessive”. By signing this petition you agree that “unreasonable” or “excessive force” was used on Malik A. King on March 9, 2011 in California Orange County.

The beating of Mr. King is sickening and disturbing. The police involved in the beating and cover up must be brought to justice. Tell Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas to thoroughly investigate and prosecute the officers involved in the brutality of Malik A. King,LVN,RN.

Dec. 18 2011 06:37 PM
John Hockenberry from NYC

Hey "Charles" I'm certainly sympathetic to the fiscal concerns of the Fullerton police department but I'm not sure the suspensions they gave out had anything to do with cost savings. I'm sorry for giving you the impression that I was keeping some information from you in that segment although there has been no information suggesting the deceased has been threatening in any way. I guess I'm just left with one question, "Chuck:" how do you sleep at night?

Aug. 07 2011 03:53 PM
Joe Zrnchik from Highland, IN

They handcuffed a 140 lb. schizophrenic and malnourished and while face down continued to smash his face into the ground until he was knocked out and then rendered brain dead.

Any cop who defends such anamilistic brutality deserves the same treatment.

What a bunch of sadistic losers.

Google Pic "Kelly Thomas pictures".

There is no way to defend this crime and any such action is revolting.

Police are government tools of tyranny.

We are tired of being told we are free while living in police state.

We are tired of the talk about liberty while we have none.

We are tired of police abuse and the court prosecutors and judges protecting police lies, abuse, torture and murder.

We are tired of the false imprisonment and perjury by police.

Militarism is not patriotism, nor is submission to a corrupt police state with a two-tiered justice system.

Aug. 07 2011 02:18 PM

I am glad this topic is finally getting some publicity. Don't give up. The truth will come out. Those cops will be jailed. I have to hope for justice.

Aug. 07 2011 09:56 AM

This was such an informationally-dissatisfying story.

I understand the complainants' gripes with the police. They think that there was excessive force used, and that injuries resulting from the (allegedly) excessive force caused the subsequent death of the mentally ill suspect.

But because John Hockenberry was being so careful to be solicitous of the greiving father and the community-activist investigative reporter, we didn't get the whole story.

What was the suspect doing at the time, to attract police attention? Was he breaking into cars, harassing people, intimidating people? Was he suspected of a crime? Why was he homeless? Isn't mental illness and homelessness a recipe for injury and death? If I were a citizen and there were mentally ill homeless people in my neighborhood, I would go out of my way, to ask of my local police officers, to keep a special eye on such people.

I don't think this story came close to answering any of those questions.

Now, I do understand; The Takeaway apparently asked the Fullerton police for comment, and they declined. Because, no doubt, they have a fear and an expectation that they are going to be sued for millions, and they have determined not to say anything pending the completion of their attorneys' investigation. Moreover, they know that unlike other litigatants they as a public office will be forced to turn over all records and documentation with respect to this incident. So they will be very careful.

If John Hockenberry was afraid of offending the sensibilities of the father (who has apprently volunteered to do numerous media interviews), why not ask some hard and probing questions of the reporter? Is the reporter just gathering evidence for the plaintiffs? Or is the reporter looking at both sides?

These are all mostly rhetorical questions, because I already know the answers. Like the New York Times, Hockenberry feels it his calling to do stories that challenge the powers that be, on behalf of ordinary people. "Accountability journalism" is how the Associated Press euphemistically, and ridiculously, terms it. For Hockenberry, the real point is the emotional moment with the father, and the generation of web-hits with video links.

John Hockenberry and I probably think about things very differently. I am thinking about how much this will cost Fullerton. And what it will cost every other police department that has to perform in-the-field mental health triage work on people who are doing things like breaking into cars or harassing people in parking lots. and what it might cost taxpayers, to add to all of the other police training, layers of training in how to deal with people who should be in mental health institutions.

Aug. 05 2011 01:49 PM
Mordecai Christi from Boston

I heard about Kelly's story on Aug 2 from!/PrisonReformMvt - Celeste, John -

Thank you for covering this. It is no small shame that I have not done more to spread awareness of this story as yet, thanks to you two and the Takeaway staffing; one part in my life will be to do my part to help continue seeing that this is fully-addressed and that Kelly's family gets their chance at peaceable closure to the more tactile and socially-palpable culpability in this heinous tragedy.

That said, and as his Father said (the police are not trained to 'deal' with the 'mentally-ill'), who is culpable? These officers are in the social position to execute commands ordered them to be performed in our streets. We (for a great part) acquiesce to their gun-toting and handcuff shackling actions and legally/socially-acceptable 'abilities and rights' near-unquestioningly.

So these men are stopping people in the streets under the protection of their increasing ability to do so with less and less recoil and rightful proactive reaction by the people they are tyrannizing, that they are hunting. No, I'm not talking about Hamas.

The long and short for now... my take, is that I was raised to trust in law, the capability for a few men and women to stand in a calm resistance to crime, not necessarily a pervasive paranoia of potential crime.

They were kind, and strong, and brave, these men and women. Any who arrests unquestioningly, aggressively, or who takes some sick and sadistic satisfaction in over-reaching the social bonds by acting unfairly at any moment to any person that is on the shocking side of their tazer is not a real officer of the law. They are more than bullies with badges. They are a rare and succinct breed of terrorist.

Succinct definition in brevity denotes the socially-accepted position, the infrastructures that protect their common prosecution, and the momentum in which this lack of social-assertiveness to take back the balance which allows an officer to be in our best interests, and in theirs.

They deserve our respect. We deserve theirs. They are only people. In this story, they are the vicious criminals, exponentially exacerbated by their position as snakes in the grass, as traitors to America and America's law. The mother who chokes the child in her crib, the father who beats his son in the streets... a position of trust-abused is far-more harmful than any other human not deceiving their perceived and empowered public function.

The way we understand crime, culpability, and punishment is in dire need of reform. Philosophically, legislatively, and in pure-practice throughout our society.

This poor man.
Cognitive disruptions, or the anachronistic 'mentally-ill' terminology... another issue to be examined. I've only felt that I've voiced a brief and near-vague disgust at this happening.

Aug. 05 2011 09:56 AM

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