Over 200 people protested outside the Fullerton Police Department and City Hall on Saturday over the death of Kelly Thomas. The 37-year-old homeless man was apprehended last month in a violent arrest that sent him into a coma. He died soon after. Now, the public wants answers and action.
Thomas passed away on July 10, five days after an altercation with cops who were looking into reports of an attempted car burglary. According to his parents' Orange County, California wrongful death claim against the city of Fullerton, Thomas, who weighed 145-pounds, was on a bench at the Fullerton Transportation Center when six cops exercised "excessive and deadly force" on him "without justification."
The Fullerton police officers allegedly used their fists, objects, a Taser, and other forms of deadly and excessive force to restrain him even though he did not pose a threaten to the cops. The arrest was captured on video by a cell phone and has been viewed over 695,000 times on You Tube.
An autopsy that was conducted rendered inconclusive findings and toxicology results are still pending. Thomas's mom, Cathy Thomas, says her son was stunned with a Taser at least six times. He also sustained severe neck and head injuries from the arrest. Thomas's dad Ron Thomas says that his son sustained two types of severe traumatic brain injuries--one caused by blunt force trauma and the other because his heart stopped. Ron wants murder charges filed.
The six police officers involved in Thomas's arrest have since been placed on administrative leave while the investigation into the alleged incident of Fullerton police brutality takes place. Over 80 witnesses have already been interviewed. Meantime, the FBI is investigating whether Thomas' civil rights were violated. The Orange County District Attorney is also looking into this tragic incident.
According to Ron Thomas, his son suffered from schizophrenia and had not been taking his medication. His arrest is raising speculation over whether cops are trained to properly deal with those who are mentally ill. The National Alliance on Mental Illness wants the city of Fullerton, whose cops aren't specifically trained in dealing with mental illness, to look at its officer training programs and work with families with mentally ill members.
Excessive Use of Force
Police officers must never use excessive and unnecessary force when doing their job. They must also assess any arrest situation when deciding how much force to exert. In many instances, a suspect won't pose any physical danger and should be treated accordingly. In certain instances, some physical force may be required to apprehend someone.
For an unarmed person to die while being arrested--let alone be beaten by six cops--definitely raises questions regarding whether the Fullerton police officers committed Orange County, California police brutality. That said, it is important that you know that excessive use of police force doesn't have to be physical. Emotional violence, verbal assault, sexual harassment, blackmailing, and threats can be acts of police brutality when used by a cop on a member of the public. Not only is excessive use of police force is violation of one's civil rights, but also it can be grounds for a Fullerton personal injury or wrongful death case.
Homeless man's death in encounter with cops brings protests, USA Today, August 14, 2011
Six California police officers placed on leave in homeless man's death, CNN, August 4, 2011
Kelly Thomas' Parents File Claim Against Fullerton, MyFOX LA, August 12, 2011
Related Web Resources:
Police, City of Fullerton
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Newport Beach Wrongful Death Lawsuit Blames Police for Suicide of Man While in Custody, California Injury Lawyers, August 6, 2011
$2.1M Excessive Use of Force Settlement Reached in 2008 Orange County, California Wrongful Death of Inmate Detained by Cops in 2008, California Injury Lawyers, June 29, 2011
Huntington Beach Personal Injury Lawsuit: Man Alleging Police Brutality Claims He Was Choked by Cops, California Injury Lawyers, April 26, 2011