The local community in Fullerton, California, has been shaken by the violent death of Kelly Thomas, a homeless man who suffered from schizophrenia. On July 5, a local student caught some raw footage of police officers utilizing a Taser to subdue Thomas after he purportedly resisted arrest. According to sources, the man was beaten so profusely that he was placed on life support and then died several days later.
Thomas caught the attention of police offers after someone reported that a burglar was breaking into cars that were parked at the local bus station. When cops then approached Thomas and attempted to arrest him, he resisted. This is where the story takes a bizarre turn and the facts get murky. According to Gawker, Mark Turgeon, a witness to the police beating, claims that Thomas wasn't at all resisting arrest:
"They kept beating him and Tasering him. I could hear zapping, and he wasn't even moving. He had one arm in front of him like this, he wasn't resisting. And they kept telling him, 'He's resisting, quit resisting,' and he wasn't resisting."
While the following video does not show the actual beating, Thomas' screams can be heard as the beating unfolds. Pay particular attention to witness commentary, as it does seem to corroborate Turgeon's statements:
Then, there is this image (see left) that shows just how battered and beaten Thomas was left after the incident. It should be noted that, while some are claiming that he was not resisting arrest, two police officers did, indeed, have broken bones. This seems to indicate that there was a violent struggle of some sort.
Since the incident, Thomas' family has held protests outside of the police department's headquarters, but has yet to receive any substantial answers. His father, a former sheriff's deputy, is distraught and has even stated that he is ashamed for every having ever been a law enforcement officer. The family, in their grief, claim that the man, though mentally ill, was not violent; others corroborate the notion that Thomas was "gentle." Below, find some reaction from his family members (from to KABC):
"It was gang-involved, the way I see it, a gang of rogue officers who brutally beat my son to death." - Ron Thomas (father)
"Very loving, very kind. He cared about family. I mean, his sister and brother in Nevada state, he would ask me constantly how they were...Can't even begin to explain the loss of a son. I just want to see him again. I want to hold him. It's just not fair." - Cathy Thomas (mother)
"I can't fathom that this happened. It's terrible. It makes me sick to my stomach, and I can't believe that they're not saying what happened." - Dana Pape (stepmother)
Below, watch video from KABC-TV that shows the family protesting last week outside of police headquarters:
And, here is an interview with Thomas' father, Ron:
The six Fullerton police officers involved in the incident have remained silent, but they welcome an investigation by the local district attorney. Others, though, are weighing in. On July 17, Fullerton City council member Bruce Whitaker issued an open letter to local residents. In it, Whitaker pushed for "a clear, factual and complete explanation of events." Below, you can read the letter for yourself:
The police department will likely need to release details at some juncture in the near future. Considering the video and the graphic image that have already leaked to the public, this scenario is not likely to disappear. Hopefully, the public -- and Thomas' family -- will be given adequate information to make a final determination about the merits of the officers' actions that evening.
Update: Mail Online is reporting that the police department has retracted its statement that two officers suffered broken bones. Now, they are calling the injuries "soft tissue damage."