Kelly Thomas, a 37 year-old, mentally ill and homeless man was beaten to death by Fullerton Police. In the videotape of his beating he is heard screaming for his dad to help him and begging for his life.
On July 5, 2011, Kelly Thomas was approached by Fullerton California police at a local bus stop. After attempting to search him and then sitting him on the curb for 20 minutes (without incident) the situation escalated and became physical.
Police backup was called and 6 officers engaged in the beating of Thomas; tasering him multiple times, pummeling him with the butts of tasers and flashlights, twisting his arms and crushing his chest. During the incident (which was videotaped) Thomas screamed over and over again “Dad, dad”, “help me”, “I’m sorry” and other pleadings for his life.
Kelly Thomas,whose family has a history of schizophrenia, was the son of a former Orange County Sheriff's deputy and was living as a homeless man at the time of the incident. The central officer in this case Officer Manuel Ramos, foreshadowed what was about to happen as before the beating he put on latex gloves and asked Thomas "Now see my fists? They are getting ready to fuck you up”.
Thomas received massive injuries to his face and his head, brain injuries, facial and rib fractures, and extensive bruising and abrasions during the beating, which left him lying in a "growing pool of blood." While being severely beaten several officers were on top of him and crushing him. On the audio tape Thomas can be clearly heard pleading with officers, "I can't breathe," "Dad, help me." But the officers did not reduce their level of force during the nearly 10-minute assault, the district attorney said.
Video of Kelly Thomas Beating (age restricted on YouTube)
This 33-minute video is age restricted and shows the full incident. For those who do not wish to watch it, the first 20 minutes shows the officers talking to Thomas as he sits on the curb. The next 10 minutes show the beating of Thomas by 6 officers. The remaining 3 minutes show the police picking up evidence and "cleaning" the crime scene.
No one performed CPR or attempted to help Thomas after it was clear that he was comatose.
According to the Orange County Coroner, the cause of death was "asphyxia caused by mechanical chest compression with blunt cranial-facial injuries sustained during physical altercation with law enforcement." Thomas died because of the force of the officers on his chest, which made it impossible for him to breathe. This caused Thomas to become unconscious. He then slipped into a coma and died when taken off life support five days later.
Also according to the toxicology report shows that Thomas had no illicit drugs or alcohol in his system, although officers beating him kept saying “he’s high on something” as some sort of justification for use of excessive force to subdue a 120-pound, unarmed man.
As usual with these type of police misconduct, Initial media reports tried to paint Thomas as the aggressor and the police as the victims. The media and the police claimed that Thomas had been “very combative” with officers and two officers had suffered broken bones.Later, the police department confirmed that no officers had suffered any broken bones, and that no one other than Thomas had any significant injuries. The video of the incident clearly supports the claim that Thomas was the victim.
Although at least 6 police officers were present and participating in the beating, only 2 face formal charges: Officer Manuel Ramos was charged with one count of second-degree murder and one count of involuntary manslaughter; and Corporal Jay Cicinelli was charged with one count of involuntary manslaughter and one count of excessive force. After a preliminary hearing to determine if there is sufficient evidence for a trial the case was ordered to go to trial on May 9, 2012 (see story).
Witness commenting on the Kelly Thomas beating
Police brutality is a major issue and has to be addressed. For every 1 case of a killing that makes it into the media there are dozens of cases of broken bones, beatings, verbal terror, tasering and other mistreatments that go unreported. In addition, the planting of evidence, and unconstitutional practice of stop-and-frisk continues.
If these 2 out of 6 police officers are convicted, their punishment still does not fit the crime. Police should be held to a higher standard not a lower one, and politicians and judges should simply reward them when they do right and punish them when they do wrong – to the fullest extent of the law.