Kelly Thomas was a 37 year-old homeless man suffering from schizophrenia and roaming the streets of Fullerton, California. According to locals he wasn’t aggressive, belligerent or a ongoing nuisance other than he was homeless and committed a variety of petty crimes to survive. Kelly Thomas was also the son of a former Orange County Sheriff’s deputy.
On July 5, 2011 Fullerton, California police responded to a call regarding an individual spotted breaking into cars. They attempted to arrest Kelly Thomas but discovered the 135 pound homeless man wasn’t going without a fight. Six Fullerton police officers joined the pile-on, pummeling the living shit out of Mr. Thomas in plain view of spectators. Kelly’s injuries were substantial and he died in hospital five days later. Fullerton police have been silent about the case and Kelly’s father is demanding the officers responsible be charged with murder. I agree.
It’s another story of injustice, police brutality and the plight of the homeless repeated in practically every city all over the world. Kelly was one of a multitude of lost, mentally ill people wandering the streets in our cities and the victims of their own pathetic life paths. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of the ‘give ’em drugs and money and hope they get better’ types that appear to run most of the cities here on the west coast. I have little time for those that won’t help themselves but this situation is about mental illness not laziness. The thing that struck me about this story is how Kelly appears to have been a victim of not just the Fullerton police department but his family and the system that allowed him to wander the streets in a schizophrenic daze. His father, Ron Thomas, appeared on a Los Angeles radio talk show (John & Ken on KFI AM 640) and spoke about his son and what lead to his life on the street. During the interview I couldn’t help but think that his father may not have done enough to prevent his son’s death as he didn’t appear to be terribly forthcoming about how Kelly’s life had ended up and why he, as a responsible parent, couldn’t or didn’t help. I may be off base here but that’s the way it sounds to me.
Another interesting aspect to this story is that the story didn’t break within California or indeed within the United States. The Daily Mail newspaper in the UK published the story which in turn led to interest by American media. Kelly’s story didn’t appear to be interesting enough to warrant any coverage until another country deemed it so which makes me wonder how many stories like this are never reported.
Click the play button below to hear the Ron Thomas audio interview on KFI AM 640. I’ve also included a Youtube video taken by a spectator during the beating. You can clearly hear Kelly as he cries out for his father while being beaten and tasered by the police.
A very sad end to a very sad life.
Click play button to hear Ron Thomas interview