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Six Calif. Officers Involved In Fatal Beating Suspended

August 03, 2011  | 

Six Fullerton (Calif.) Police officers involved in the fatal beating of a homeless man in early July have been suspended, as investigations into the incident have been launched by the department, Orange County District Attorney's Office and FBI.

On July 5, Fullerton PD officers responded to a report of a man looking in the windows of cars. Responding officers encountered Kelly Thomas, 37, at a transit station.

Thomas, who suffered from schizophrenia, apparently became violent when officers attempted to search him, which caused the physical altercation, reports the Orange County Register.

Witnesses said the officers beat Thomas with a flashlight, used a stun gun multiple times and slammed his face into the concrete multiple times, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Thomas was critically wounded and died five days after the incident.

One of the officers involved in the incident has been identified as Jay Cicinelli, a former LAPD officer who lost an eye when he was shot multiple times during a 1996 shooting while he was a rookie cop.

A citizen used a cell phone that captured mostly audio from the incident that has been posted to YouTube. Also witnesses were captured on surveillance cameras on an OCTA transit bus giving their impressions of the incident.

Ron Thomas, the father of Kelly and a retired Orange County (Calif.) Sheriff's deputy, told Times columnist Steve Lopez he hopes the incident will serve to teach other law enforcement officers.

Sources: Los Angeles Times, Orange County Register, Friends for Fullerton's Future

Comments (8)

Displaying 1 - 8 of 8

Tom @ 8/3/2011 6:26 AM

At this point do we know what the suspect even died of? What are the results of the autopsy? This article assumes this suspect was beaten to death. No doubt something happened that hastened his death but was a medical and /or mental condition in play here or did he die from blows to the head etc? Any struggle with a suspect is inherently dangerous. Obviously, the more a suspect resists, the more force will be needed to get him under control. The general public seems to be very eager to blame the officers if something goes wrong and assume there was malice involved. Of course they are not doing any of the fighting and don't know all of the facts. This is the type of situation that makes law enforcement a stressful job.

Bravo6 @ 8/3/2011 7:06 AM

I agree with you Tom! What this article fails to mention is that Thomas was a schizophrenic and possibly under the influence of alcohol or drugs! When Officers first made contact he tried running away! No results from the autopsy have come back yet! Watching the City Council meeting online last night, the Community wants heads including the current Chief and former who has a seat on City Council! It makes me sick because these people have no idea what it's like! They won't even take into account Thomas had a mental condition, or wait for the investigations to be completed!

Tom Ret LPD @ 8/3/2011 7:24 AM

I am aware of a similar situation in which the officers confronted a very large mental subject and attempted to take him into custody. He was tased and subsequently died. The autopsy showed he had a heart condition as I recall. It has been several years ago but I remember that the local media initially said or implied that too much force was used by the officers. They were cleared after the autopsy results became public. The suspect's relatives of course will never admit that the police acted correctly.

David @ 8/3/2011 7:36 AM

As a cop, this apalles me. I've seen the video, not very good, but the comments that are heard by the crowd are very clear. I fail to understand why a cop would even do this, not to mention that not one of the officers stoped the others. We all become angry sometimes, but we are trained and paid to keep that anger in check... again, 6 officers and none of them stopped this when it bordered on a criminal act.

Arnelle @ 8/3/2011 9:46 AM

As law enforcement professionals we should expect this typical reaction from the public so it's not a surprise that the public is demanding action against the officers involved in this incident. Any death involving law enforcement should be scrutinized by the public and information, with specific parameters, shared. As in all of your comments, you share a specific viewpoint that looks at the incident in different prospectives. A representative from the Fullerton Police Department should be tasked of becoming the point of contact regarding this incident. Their assignment is non-investigatory but serves only as a liaison to the public.

Information shared to the public must be at face value with limited emotional influence. During these incidents, it is essential PIOs, community lead officers and police liaison personnel are tasked to maintain or establish good communication with the general public; to keep them informed of the processes and procedures undertaken by the agency. Representatives from the law enforcement agencies should refrain from answering hypothetical questions to not stir up public emotion and give false hope. The goal is to maintain some level of productive relationship with the public. An uninformed public will have feelings of distrusts and apprehension with their law enforcement agency.

I respectfully request all of us in the law enforcement profession to also scrutinized these incidents to learn from our mistakes/successes and continue to provide value and honor to our profession.

Tom Ret LPD @ 8/3/2011 9:48 AM

I listened and watched the video listed and came away with a different conclusion than David. I can not hear the officers nor can I see what is happening on the video. I can hear bystanders comment and then hear comments of subjects apparently on a bus. All or most are critical of the police and use such phrases or words as pigs, cops have nothing better to do, or poor guy was just chillin, cops electrocuted him 6 times, 5 times that's enough just put the cuffs on him, cops were kicking, hitting, pulling his hair and choking him etc. The witnesses apparently have no idea why the cops initiated contact. The fact that the officers had to tase the subject 5 or 6 times gives credence to the fact that this was no routine arrest and the suspect was resisting with great vigor. I also know from personal experiences, that struggling with mental subjects or those high on pcp or drugs that increase the pain threshold, can be tough to get the suspect under control and at the same time not seriously hurt him or her and be uninjured myself. I don't know if these officers used too much force or not as I was not there and from what I observed and heard would not want to form any conclusion. I surely would not form a conclusion based on what some "street people" think the police should have or not have done.

krisnlc @ 10/6/2011 10:56 AM

the statements made by the police officer initially "my fists are going to f&*k u up *" i am paraphrasing... suggests bad blood to begin with.... I am not sure of the condition or what or how much the homeless man struggled, but there is a point when enough is enough...and when the engagement starts with statements like that... it is already being enacted by someone who should not be wearing the badge..i wear a badge and even though sometimes i am angry and feel like that, it is my responsibility to control my action enough to apply the force necessary to control the situation not to kill the guy because he pissed me, sorry i agree that officer or officers should no longer wear a badge and the accountability should be higher.

RLS @ 5/11/2012 2:01 PM

This looks to be a genuine case of excited delirium. Super strong, assaultive, taking multiple officers to restrain him. It's apparent that the first two could not control him or handcuff him. That is obvious from the repeated demands to comply which he would not. Granted the initial verbage from the officer was not appropriate but that is not a criminal violation. You take on officers you can count on two things typically, it is not going to be pretty and you stand a very good chance of getting hurt, just like the officers do on a daily basis. Looks to me that the only crime the officers committed was "doing their job" in an all to liberal state and society in which the "cops are the bad guys". I wish them well!

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