Kelly Thomas & the SlideBar Tape: What Matters and What Doesn’t

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Today, The OC Weekly announced the Slidebar possesses Close-Circuit Television recording taken from its premises on July 5, 2011.  The tape records none of the interaction between the Fullerton Police Department and Kelly Thomas, but does provide a perspective as to what SlideBar employees and management may have observed regarding Kelly Thomas’s behavior in front of the establishment, including the parking lot.

slidebar cafe - thomas beating superimposed

Let’s be absolutely clear on a few things.

Here’s what the tape doesn’t mean:

It doesn’t mean that the three former members of the Fullerton Police Department are any guiltier or any less guilty of murdering Kelly Thomas.

— It doesn’t mean that former Officer Ramos had a right to threaten Kelly Thomas with physical violence or to take active demonstrative steps towards inflicting violence before engaging in a physical confrontation with Kelly Thomas, a confrontation that was the actual and proximate cause of Kelly Thomas’s death.

— It doesn’t mean that former Officer Wolfe had a right to pursue and batter Kelly Thomas with a club, precipitating a violent physical altercation with Mr. Thomas, to participate in the subsequent confrontation, a confrontation that was the actual and proximate cause of Kelly Thomas’s death.

— It doesn’t mean that former Officer Cicinelli had a right to electrocute Kelly Thomas repeatedly, to use a weapon to repeatedly batter Mr. Thomas’s face, to participate in a violent confrontation, a confrontation that was the actual and proximate cause of Kelly Thomas’s death.

It also has no bearing on whether the Fullerton Police Department should continue to employ one or more of the officers not charged with a felony as a result of their activities on July 5, 2011.

It does not mean that three other officers did not fail to fulfill their duty to provide aide to a victim of a crime, a crime in which each officer physically aided the perpetrators and provided care, a victim which each officer physically touched while the victim was being battered, or to fail an ordinary duty to provide care to a person in distress—who openly bled into the street while all three officers did nothing.

It also doesn’t preclude any motive from any Slidebar employee or a member of its management regarding the homeless population at the Fullerton Transportation Center.

Here’s what it does mean.

Security at the Fullerton Transportation Center, particularly in the area immediately surrounding the Slidebar, is a concern.  If it weren’t a concern, there wouldn’t be a camera pointed at the parking lot, let alone at the entrance to the bar.  How big of a concern, particularly of what importance security is to the community at large, is up for discussion.  It may be tolerable; it may not.

Considering the setting, as provided by the video, as well as a reasonable person’s prejudice regarding Kelly’s behavior in the parking lot, it is not unreasonable for a person to call the non-emergency police line to report suspicious activity.

Management at the Slidebar might have a few screws loose.  Why it took over 18 months to let slip that a video exists is beyond fathomable considering the reputational damage the Slidebar incurred.  Their inaction damages their relationship with the community and continues to damage the community by re-instigating the conversation.  This should have been put to rest on July 27, 2011 and not February 27, 2013.

Here’s what you should do:

Make up your own mind, but keep an open one.  We don’t know everything.

This will probably not be the last surprise we see as this saga continues to evolve.  We have no idea what happened to cell phone footage taken on July 5 or what other businesses in the Transportation Center recorded video.

What we do know is that Kelly Thomas is dead and that he didn’t die from being homeless.

We know that three officers have been charged with one or more felonies associated with their activity on July 5, 2011.

We know that three additional officers at the scene on July 5 are still employed by the Fullerton Police Department.

We also know that after eighteen months Recommendation 59 of the Independent Review of the Fullerton Police Department, establishment of a Citizen’s Police Oversight Commission, remains open.

About Ryan Cantor

Our conservative columnist, raised in North Orange County, works as an Analyst and Strategic Planner.