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Beaten homeless, schizophrenic man’s father to sue City of Fullerton

Ron Thomas, father of Kelly Thomas, 37, who died from injuries that were sustained in police custody, says that he turned down a $900,000 settlement offered by the City of Fullerton, California, and will sue the city. Kelly Thomas, who suffered from schizophrenia, died five days after being taken off life support after he was shocked repeatedly with a stun gun, beaten with flashlights, kicked,  and hog-tied by six police officers, according to witnesses who spoke to local media.

A voice of a person in apparent distress shouting”Dad! Dad! Dad!” during the incident could be heard on a cell-phone video taken by a bystander.

A photo of a man identified as Kelly Thomas was purportedly taken shortly after the incident and posted online. The photo shows a bandaged, bearded man with a swollen face lying on a blood-stained pillow.

The incident began, according to police reports, at about 8:30 PM on July 5 when police officers responded to reports of a man trying to break into cars near a bus depot near City Hall. The man was identified as Thomas. An altercation took place between police officers and Thomas in which he suffered serious injuries and was taken to a hospital, according to the police.

According to the CNN article:

“On Tuesday, six Fullerton police officers were placed on involuntary administrative leave as the FBI and Orange County‘s district attorney investigate. Ron Thomas said the actions against the officers came shortly after he had closed-door meeting with Police Chief Michael Sellers and Capt. Kevin Hamilton.”

The officers will remain on salary. Their names have not been released.

Laura Eimiller, spokesperson for the FBI’s Los Angeles office, said that the FBI is investigating whether Kelly Thomas’s civil rights were violated during the incident.

The Fullerton Police Department requested that the investigation be handled by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, in agreement with Fullerton Mayor F. Richard Jones. Jones said:

“I’m sure I speak for the entire Fullerton City Council when I say how shocked I am by this incident,” Jones said. “As a parent, I can’t begin to imagine the pain the family of Kelly Thomas is experiencing over the loss of their son and brother, and my heart goes out to his family.”

By Wednesday, the District Attorney’s Office had interviewed 80 people and hoped to interview 20 more.

Ron Thomas said that his son was a normal kid and everybody loved him, even until his death. Kelly started to exhibit strange behaviors in his early twenties, sleeping on the floor instead of in bed, and letting his hygiene slip. After an early arrest, perhaps for vagrancy, Kelly got into a county program and was diagnosed as schizophrenic. Kelly held several jobs for short periods, since he was on and off medication.

At a Fullerton City Council meeting, Ron Thomas said:

“I just wonder where my son’s rights went as a citizen,” Thomas told the council. “Where were his rights? Listen to my son beg those officers, ‘Please, please, God, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.’ And the last words of his life, ‘Dad! Dad!’ I want you to hear that for the rest of your life like I will.”

Ron Thomas has set up a foundation in Kelly’s name for the donations that have already come in and for any future civil award. Money from the foundation will go “…to help out all the organizations that support the homeless, feed them, clothe them.”

CNN presents a video interview with Ron Thomas, who says that the vicious cycle of schizophrenia is that patients feel well when they are on medications and stop taking them. Repeatedly.

If the state of health care in the United States of America is shoddy, the state of mental health care is particularly so.

As the result of things that have happened in my life, as a father, I found it very difficult to even contemplate writing this blog entry.

Which is the principal reason that it was necessary for me to do so….

(Note added August 06, 2011: Hundreds in Fullerton today protested the beating death of Kelly Thomas.)

(Note added August 08, 2011: Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas today said he has seen no evidence so far suggesting Fullerton police officers intentionally tried to kill Kelly Thomas but his office is still trying to determine whether the officers used excessive force. A Sunday article gives additional information about the death.)

(Note added August 10, 2011: Fullerton Police Chief Michael Sellers, whose annual salary and benefits total $228,576, was taking a medical leave of absence for an unspecified period of time, amid calls for his resignation as six of his officers are being investigated. Thank goodness it does not look like this incident is going away. It points up the failures of mental health coverage in the U.S.)

(Note added August 11, 2011: Supervisors allowed the six officers involved in the lethal confrontation to view the videotape of the incident before writing their reports. Both the Orange County District Attorney’s Office (which is investigating the case along with the FBI) and the Fullerton Police Department have refused requests to make the tape public. An attorney who represents Kelly Thomas’s parents has filed a claim with the city of Fullerton, signaling their intent to file a civil suit. The claim alleges that at least six officers “individually and in unison severely beat decedent Kelly Thomas with their fists and with objects and subjected decedent Kelly Thomas to excessive applications of Taser electricity and to numerous forms of excessive and deadly force under circumstances in which Kelly Thomas was subdued and restrained and represented no threat of harm to the Fullerton police officers, causing the death of decedent Kelly Thomas.”)

-Bill at

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