[Updated] Protest in Fullerton Demands Justice in the Fatal Police Beating of Kelly Thomas

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UPDATE: The Los Angeles Times Sunday write-up of the protest speaks of anonymous sources who are downplaying the significance of the surveillance tape saying it “shows parts of the police altercation, but key elements are obscured” and that “tree limbs and leaves blocked part of the camera’s view.” The sources forgot to mention another obscuring object, the DA! who refuses to make the tape public!

ORIGINAL ITEM: Hundreds took to the streets once more to decry the brutal killing of a schizophrenic homeless man by members of the Fullerton police department last month. The story was at risk of falling under the radar when local corporate news outlets were hesitant to publish a photo of Kelly Thomas, 37, lying in a hospital bed with purple, swollen eyes, gruesome gashes, inserted tubes, and blood stained medical gauze plugging his nostrils. The depiction, both graphic and disturbing, has since fueled an increased outcry after its publication by Tony Bushala in the Friends for Fullerton’s Future blog. As a result, the corner of Commonwealth and Highland was lined with even more outraged protesters than a week ago demanding justice as cars driving by constantly honked their horns in support for hours on end.

There are videos of the violent incident that occurred in early July when the city’s police officers were investigating an unconfirmed report of someone breaking into cars, happened upon Thomas, and laid siege to him, but so far the only one that has been put out by a local college student is distant. It is not akin to the all the citizen filming that came from the fatal police shooting of Oscar Grant at a BART station in Northern California nearly three years ago. Thomas can be heard painfully crying aloud ‘Dad, Dad, Dad!’ in the video, however, while being bludgeoned and tasered by a ‘Gang of Six’ Fullerton policemen. The man he was desperately calling out for is Ron Thomas, a former Orange County Sheriff’s Deputy, who has since said his son’s death was murder and who has been present at the public demonstrations.

Leading into today’s protest, two Fullerton City Council members have demanded the resignation of Chief of Police Michael Sellers — a move the Los Angeles Times editorial page stupidly called “premature” when Sharon Quirk-Silva first took it upon herself to do so. Protestors echoed that popular demand as they are disgusted at the lack of transparency from the onset of the Thomas death. They are also calling on the release of a surveillance video of the beating being reviewed by OC District Attorney Tony Rackauckus. No killer cop has ever been convicted as such in OC with declarations of ‘justified’ actions in the deaths of Julian Alexander and Julian Collender illustrating T-Rack’s record.

Nationally, five New Orleans were recently convicted in fatal post-Katrina shootings, but none of murder. Impunity is virtually built into the system. If the surveillance footage of the Thomas beating never reaches the public eyes, rest assured full justice will not be served. Its best chance lies in its release. Grant’s killer only had a brief stint in prison because his actions were clearly filmed by BART passengers. Will the public’s demand for accountability be heard? Will this time be different somehow, someway? It goes without saying that anytime you have ANSWER LA sign holders together with Oath Keepers on bullhorns denouncing police brutality the dynamic is a unique one. Fullerton police also made the foolish mistake of killing the son of a former law enforcement official.

Is impunity impenetrable? For the sake of justice, accountability and transparency, let’s hope not. A community will have to remain steadfast and vigilant. In the meanwhile, the memory of what happened to Kelly Thomas hangs over the city of Fullerton like a fog that can not even begin to lift until the light of truth is shown.


About Gabriel San Roman