Trigger warning: police violence, graphic picture. On a warm July evening in 2011, Kelly Thomas was hanging out at the Transportation Center near The Olde Spaghetti Factory in Fullerton. Someone called the police saying Thomas was looking in car windows and pulling on handles of locked cars. What happened next was caught on video: Fullerton police officers beat Kelly Thomas until he was bloodied and comatose. He later died of his injuries. [You can read the full timeline of events, here.]
Yesterday, the now former police officers, Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli, were acquitted of the murder and manslaughter charges. They were found not guilty.
What a miscarriage of justice. How in the name of mercy can we look at the beaten, bloodied face of Kelly Thomas and ACQUIT these police officers?
Full disclosure: I am not unbiased. Fullerton is my hometown. I used to work at The Olde Spaghetti Factory which is right next to the bus stop where Kelly Thomas was murdered. I walked by that spot every day on my way into work. And yes, I believe he was murdered. I have watched this trial from the beginning. And today, I am HORRIFIED.
The Transportation Center is an understandable gathering spot for homeless folks. In addition to the bus stop, the Fullerton train station is nearby. There is shelter, vending machines and the commuters are often generous. As a teenage hostess working in the restaurant right next to the train station, I never felt threatened while walking by the homeless folks. Sometimes I gave them whatever spare change I had. Sometimes I brought a box of leftover spaghetti.
The point is, these people are not violent. They’re homeless. And last time I checked, being homeless was not a crime.
And not to place too fine a point on it but peering into car windows is ALSO not a crime. Sure, maybe the police needed to show up and give Kelly Thomas a verbal warning but BEATING him? Until he’s unconscious? NO.
I read that the defense used Kelly’s mental illness against him–as if THAT justified the use of excessive force?! The defense also claimed he had a diseased heart from drug abuse–as if heart failure–NOT being beaten until unconscious–caused his death! (FYI: the cardiologist testified that Thomas did NOT die of heart failure). And anyway, how does ANY of THAT justify being beaten in the face?! Since when did we acquit murderers because their victim was schizophrenic? Or had used drugs? Apparently, if you’re mentally ill, you’re not really human.
Thomas’ last words were utterly heartbreaking. He called for help. He begged for help. Over and over. “Dad help me. God help me. Help me. Help me. Help me.”
Well, even if the jury didn’t come to his help, we can. Please sign the petition for a federal investigation.
What do you think? Is it EVER justifiable for police to beat suspects?
What other methods should the police have used with Kelly Thomas?
Why do you think the jury acquitted the police officers?