By Rachel Quigley
July 27, 2011
A shocking video has been released allegedly showing police officers tasering and beating a homeless man to death who they claim was resisting arrest.
Though the video is not clear, eye witnesses say the homeless man – Kelly Thomas, 37 – was unable to put up any resistance and was lying on the ground on his front when the attack took place on July 5.
His screams and cries for his father can be heard amid the tasering noises.
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The video was shot by a student in Fullerton, California. Kelly Thomas was beaten so badly he died in hospital several days later.
According to Gawker, Thomas – who suffered from schizophrenia – caught the attention of the police after someone reported that a burglar was breaking into cars parked near a Fullerton bus station.
When officers approached Thomas in the depot parking lot and tried to arrest him, he resisted.
After that reports diverge.
Police will not issue a statement saying the issue is under investigation but they did say that six officers were involved and two ‘suffered broken bones in the fight’.
However, they recently retracted that statement saying that it was only ‘soft tissue damage’.
Eye witnesses at the scene claim the six officers tasered him five times and beat him beyond recognition, which the disturbing photo of him in hospital shows.
Mark Turgeon, who was there, said: ‘They kept beating him and tasering him. I could hear zapping, and he wasn’t even moving.
‘He had one arm in front of him like this, he wasn’t resisting. And they kept telling him, “He’s resisting, quit resisting”, and he wasn’t resisting.’
Many members of the Fullerton community described Thomas as a passive, peaceful person.
On the website Fullerton Stories, several people have shared their experiences interacting with Thomas, describing him as ‘very quiet and polite’, ‘gentle and childlike’, ‘sweet’, and ‘never a threat’.
Thomas has a previous conviction for assault with a deadly weapon 16 years ago, according to Gawker, which has been attributed to the onset of his illness.
Since his death, his family and members of the community have held protests outside the police department headquarters, looking for answers.
Two officers were suspended shortly after the attack but police will not confirm if it was related to the 37-year-old’s death.
Speaking about his son’s death, Thomas’s dad, Ron Thomas, a former sheriff’s deputy, said: ‘His death was gang-involved, the way I see it. A gang of rogue officers who brutally beat my son to death.’
He said he now feels ashamed for having ever been a law enforcement officer.
He has been in the area his son was attacked handing out flyers and asking people for help.
He said: ‘The only thing we have left of our son is the blood in the gutter, that’s all we have left.’
Local city council member Bruce Whitaker has called for a ‘clear, factual and complete explanation of events which led to the death of Kelly J. Thomas.’
He also wants the D.A. to release a police video that apparently shows the actual beating taking place.
Fullerton police Sgt Andrew Goodrich said that Thomas began to fight officers as they tried to search him.
He said: ‘We don’t know why he was so combative and resistant to the officers, but it took upwards of five to six officers to subdue him.
‘Sometimes when we take people into custody who don’t want to go into custody, we have to use force. It is never the preferred way of doing things.’
He said police are conducting an internal investigation into the officers’ actions and the District Attorney’s Office is conducting a criminal investigation.
The DA’s office said they cannot comment on details of cases until they are completed.