Kelly Thomas, a 37-year-old homeless man who suffered from schizophrenia, is at the center of intense debate in Fullerton, California. It was last summer that The Blaze first reported about Thomas' death, following an intense beating from local police officers. He was subsequently placed on life support following the incident and later passed away. Now, his family -- and many in the community -- are seeking justice.
The authorities responsible for Thomas' harsh treatment are facing trial (for murder and manslaughter), as they continue to defend the actions they took. However, shocking new video evidence that showcases the horrific details of the encounter, frame-by-frame, could hamper their defense.
The officers purportedly first approached Thomas in the evening of July 5, 2011, after someone reported that a burglar was breaking into cars that were parked at the local bus station.
When cops approached Thomas and attempted to arrest him, they said he resisted. But as Gawker reported when the incident first occurred, Mark Turgeon, a witness to the police beating, claimed that Thomas wasn’t resisting.
"They kept beating him and Tasering him. I could hear zapping, and he wasn’t even moving," Turgeon said. "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 initial clips of the incident only captured Kelly's horrified screams, a newly-released video showcases the entire incident from start to finish. And it seems, at least according to what can be viewed, that Turgeon's recap of the events is rooted in accuracy.
A startling, 33-minute video shows the officers approaching Kelly, beating him and then seemingly laying on top of him. Throughout the ordeal, he can be heard screaming "help me," among other pleas. Additionally, more than once, he tells the officers that he cannot breathe (his death certificate rules his death a homicide and proclaims that he died from "mechanical chest compression with blunt cranial-facial injuries sustained during physical altercation with law enforcement").
Following the initial incident, the Fullerton Police Department claimed that two officers involved in the encounter had suffered broken noses -- a statement that was later retracted. While the video does appear to show excessive force, it is somewhat grainy and Thomas' actions -- or inactions, for that matter -- are not fully viewable. Still, the audio is just as horrendous -- if not more so -- than the video: you hear a man pleading for his life, the thumps of the police batons, and that zapping of the taser.
Watch the video in its entirety, below. The beating starts around 15:20 (caution: extremely graphic and disturbing):
Here's the original clip that was captured on a cellular phone that The Blaze shared last year. Kelly can be heard screaming and pleading for help. Witnesses can be overheard discussing their perspective on the police officers' actions:
Out of the six officers who responded to and were involved in handling Kelly, only two have been charged. Officer Manuel Ramos has been slapped with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter charges and Corporal Jay Cicinelli has been given involuntary manslaughter and excessive force charges.
"We ran out of options so I got the end of my Taser and I probably ... I just start smashing his face to hell," Cicinelli is quoted as saying in a courtroom testimony provided by prosecutors. "He was on something. Cause the three of us couldn't even control him."
The officers are currently in pre-trial hearings, as the court attempts to determine if there is enough evidence to move forward with a trial.