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It may prove the most disgusting display of police officers’ abuse that Orange County, California, will ever see: Witnesses call it murder at the hands of at least six cops while Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas claims the Fullerton beating or death of homeless man Kelly Thomas was unintentional. The city attorney refuses to release video footage taken by a key witness, to back his claim. To top it off, Fullerton now has no less than 25 attorneys have been assigned to the Thomas case while allegations say Fullerton police confiscated at least one other video or photographic recording of the event that led to death.
It seems police are entitled to more rights than the average citizen -- even when they're accused of killing or murdering a citizen while charged with the duty to serve and protect: The Fullerton Police Department or its attorneys refuse to release the names of the cops involved in the alleged beating and death of homeless man Kelly Thomas in Fullerton, California.
There are at least five videos related to the beating and death of Kelly Thomas. One of the most crucial and graphic, known video of the Kelly Thomas beating may be viewed here. Viewers need to be aware that, though video footage is from a distance, footage is disturbing and both cries and Tasers being used on Thomas by police can be actively heard in the recorded footage.
The most disturbing and evidence-laden video footage is probably the one that lies with District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, the lawyer refuses handing over that video footage to the public until a months-long investigation is complete -- unless the FBI manages to force out video footage first.
The third, crucial Kelly Thomas video, concerning witnesses who boarded the OCTA bus is discussed further on.
A fourth video, involving protests over what citizens are deeming the murder of Kelly Thomas -- and a fifth video related to a Thomas beating witness who says he saw a Fullerton police officer confiscate another witness' camera or recording device are found further where related.
KFI – AM 640 has now reported Fullerton (CA) City attorney Bruce Praet allegedly told Ron Thomas -- father of now-deceased, 37-year-old Kelly Thomas -- that his schizophrenic son's life wasn’t all that valuable. Lawyer Praet is alleged to have said “Come on, your son was not a rocket scientist.” Maybe that thought is reiterated by how society feels about the involved Fullerton cops on its streets. Massive protests over the Kelly Thomas death suggest citizens don't believe unarmed suspects should be dying, allegedly at the hands of police officers, in Orange County.
Kelly Thomas was a homeless man – who was also mentally ill. He was a man thought to be harmless and kind. Random witnesses, unknown onlookers to the scene of the dying man, say Thomas wasn’t doing anything wrong when two police officers first came on scene. More Fullerton police cars arrived, creating drama in a scenario that logically should’ve been ended in a non-volatile way by two policemen. But then back-up cars arrived, along with more cops. Six Fullerton police officers were eventually involved in the July 5, 2011, incident that ended in a coma for Thomas -- and, eventually, death. At some point, witnesses describe on-scene police officers as reportedly bashed Kelly Thomas’ head into a curb in Orange County. The man is now dead in a scenario that played out just one month ago. And only one known video contains the entire happenings of what really occurred between Fullerton police and Thomas. That seems to be the video D.A. Tony Rackauckas doesn’t want anyone to see.
The Fullerton Police Department in California has released no details about the night Kelly Thomas died or was killed. The most cops have said is the issuance of a claim that Thomas was stopped by Fullerton police officers who were investigating a report of an attempted car burglary. According to the California-based police department, Kelly Thomas supposedly became combative. If that report is true, it doesn’t match up so well to either audio of what sounds like a beaten, screaming and frightened man who is calling for his dad. And Fullerton PD’s claim doesn’t match up to eyewitness accounts of people who boarded an OCTA bus right after the incident. What cops dub ‘combative’ also doesn’t make clear any reason that five police officers would be needed to properly subdue a weaponless man with virtually no possessions.
It’s important to note: Kelly Thomas may have been homeless and suffering from mental illness, but the man with no home had absolutely no police record related to previous violence. What the Fullerton cops were probably not counting on was the fact that Ron Thomas, his father, is a former sheriff. Apparently a good sheriff – with a clean record. In the alleged beating and killing of what cops obviously interpreted as a form of ‘street trash’, not one could’ve suspected a face-off with a loving and good man.
Just last week, father Ron Thomas made a public claim via the media that an attorney representing the city of Fullerton had approached him with an offer of $900,000 to settle the case concerning the death of Kelly Thomas. But things have gotten a lot worse for the city since even then. The immediate timing – the first time Ron Thomas says he’d even heard from the agency’s attorney – speaks timing. Cities don’t offer up money willy-nilly. If true as Ron Thomas claims, the offered Settlement may rank among the highest settlement amounts ever made by Fullerton or other agencies in Orange County, California. Such high-paying settlement offers rarely arise before court proceedings have even really begun. But perhaps the city was running scared – and has good reason to be. The violence that erupted is the first story most residents in the city, or even the county, have ever heard within their locale.
Today, August 8, Tony Rackauckas, speaking for the first time about the fatal incident, announces that the investigation into Kelly Thomas’ death or murder is in early stages – without even a determination from the Orange County coroner’s office as to Thomas’ cause of death. That lack of evidence makes Rackauckas’ surety and statements even more suspicious. The fact that Rackauckas is concurrently stating he believes cops didn’t plan to kill Kelly Thomas, while in fact the district attorney doesn’t even have all the evidence himself, seems more than slightly suspicious.
Says D.A. Rackauckas : “As far as intentional killing — whether an [Fullerton, CA] officer intended to kill him [Kelly Thomas] ... I have not seen any evidence of that in this case.” Note that the district attorney is making the claim he hasn’t seen evidence that one officer intended to kill Thomas. He’s not addressing, yet, any mob mentality that could’ve flipped a switch – and caused multiple police officers to suddenly intend to kill Kelly Thomas while acting as a group.
The 37-year-old homeless mand died several days after being confronted and allegedly beaten by six Fullerton police officers at a local bus depot last month. That location where Kelly Thomas was dragged to within inches of his life doesn’t match up with the cops’ initial story given to the media -- about reports of a man breaking into cars. Police officers found Thomas at a bus depot. As they tried to search the schizophrenic and homeless man, violence erupted. That violence left him in a coma. Witnesses say they caw Fullerton police smashing Thomas’ head into a curb – and claim the man had done nothing to provoke the attack by cops. Witnesses to the Kelly Thomas beating also describe cops as repeatedly striking the man -- and repeatedly Tasering Thomas, not once, but six times.
Rackauckas claims this Kelly Thomas case investigation is a priority for his prosecutors and investigators – that he’s devoting extensive resources to the case. Apparently the people are supposed to rest easy that “I [Tony Rackauckas] am reviewing everything that is being done.” Orange County taxpayers rest assured: The District Attorney has relegated no less than 25 district attorneys that are now devoted to the Thomas beating. Or devoted to themselves. It’s under the guise of being related to the Kelly Thomas beating and death – but then there’s that little snafu the police department will be facing shortly: The FBI’s joining in on this one.
The top prosecutor claims he’s seen a security videotape of the incident at the bus depot. And while he claims no malice or intent to kill from those police officers who allegedly beat Kelly Thomas, Tony Rackauckas isn’t secure enough in that fact to allow the video to become public. Both prosecutors and cops are keeping that video evidence under tighter-than-tight wraps. And hiding things doesn’t exactly send the message that lack of guilt is involved. That coupled with the fact that it’s nearly impossible to get one police officer fired, or even off-duty, in even the most major allegations with provided evidence. The fact that Fullerton immediately got rid of or fired at least five police officers speaks volumes.
Rackauckas won’t even allude to what’s gone on in that videotape leading to Kelly Thomas’ death, only stating: “It is a tragedy this happened,” when asked to describe video images leading up to Thomas’ death. “My heart goes out to Mr. Thomas and [his] family members.” That ‘heart’ is about as far as it goes. Because what Mr. Thomas wants is justice – and that seems to be on an opposite spectrum from Rackauckas’ current goals.
While attorney Rackauckas claims the city attorney’s office is expediting the Thomas case through added investigators – with claims it takes time to transcribe dozens of interviews and gather relevant documents – he’s calling no stops on the extra D.A.s he’s added to the Kelly Thomas case. And those D.A. obviously aren’t around to be protecting the already-dead Thomas. It appears that extra legal help, funded by taxpayers while devoted as city resources, is most likely to benefit the city or its involved officers. Because now the death triggered by police officers in the city of Fullerton – normally a quiet and safe city in Orange County – is under investigation by the FBI. And Tony Rackauckas better have those ‘ducks’ lined up.
Two Fullerton City council members are already calling for Fullerton’s police chief, Chief Michael Sellers, to resign – while hundreds of locals have attended protest rallies over the beating and death of Kelly Thomas. Six Fullerton police officers have been placed on leave – maybe as much for their own safety as any perceived sense that the police department actually cares about public perception. After all, the agency is still making sure those cops are paid.
Local conservative activist Tony Bushala claims he’s now got enough signatures to begin the recall petition process to oust Fullerton Councilman Pat McKinley, Councilman Don Bankhead and Councilman F. Richard Jones.
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas announced on August 8, 2011, that he's seen no evidence so far which suggests any of the six Fullerton (CA) police officers intentionally tried to kill the homeless man named Kelly Thomas on July 5, 2011. But, Rackauckas claims, his office is still trying to figure out whether the California officers used excessive force in the Thomas death. Interestingly, and despite Rackauckas’ claim about a lack of intent to kill in the case witnesses have called ‘murder’, the district attorney doesn’t seem to want anyone else to be creating any personal views on the subject of Kelly Thomas’ death: Tony Rackauckas refuses to allow release of the video, taken by a witness at the scene, until the official investigation is complete.
It appears to be the old ‘give it time until it dies down’ ploy. That investigation related to Kelly Thomas isn’t expected to be complete for up to six months’ time – meaning the allowance of many days for the public to forget, and maybe forgive the city of Fullerton. Any lack of spark from the public, or a delay in even more increased support for Ron Thomas, could of course mean even better negotiating skills for the city of Fullerton and any of its representatives choosing to make Thomas a Settlement Offer of cash. As public criticism dwindles, so does the opportunity for related funds – when a city feels it has less and less of a reason to make financial amends when no one’s really watching or caring quite as much. The lack of pressure tends to turn to lack of increase – or even maintenance in compensation. When the public values an issue less, so does the agency paying out that payment.
According to Ron Thomas last week, he’d already been offered nearly a million dollars to let go of the issue of son’s death. Not that any father would let go of the idea that his son has died an essentially meaningless death. But it probably isn’t helping the city of Fullerton that Ron Thomas is a former law enforcement man. If anything, that fact seems to be lending to Ron Thomas’ credibility – along with the fact that one partial video of Kelly Thomas’ final moments includes a son screaming for the help of his obviously revered father. Those cries for help couldn’t be heard by father Ron Thomas. But fortunately, there was one man whom hasn’t been commended yet in the events surrounding Kelly Thomas’ death. He couldn’t be there to help Kelly Thomas, a man whom had already died, but he did remain to help ensure the memory or circumstances surrounding that death or murder could be served justice.
The man whom has not received media exposure in the Kelly Thomas case is the Orange County Transit Authority (OCTA) bus driver. While the bus continued running OCTA video footage from three separate witnesses to the beating of Kelly Thomas, the bus driver himself not only remained calm but allowed each to talk separately in what became a recorded transcript that would not have existed. The OCTA bus driver also remained near the scene in Fullerton, CA – calmly closing the bus doors but not moving the public transportation. He asked the witnesses what they planned to do, since they were all witnesses to what they claimed was a murder. After providing about another minute’s time, the bus driver then calmly called radio dispatch on his own – to notify OCTA that he had three witnesses on board the public transport. And the driver achieved it all without spooking the three separate people who could’ve demanded to exit the bus at any moment. Without that bus driver, the FBI may never have become involved in a case that didn’t manage to keep an additional three eyetwitnesses within its grasp. Those witnesses may end up fighting for Kelly Thomas’ life far past his death – in a way not even his own dad, who wasn’t at the scene, would be able.
The American Civil Liberty's (ACLU) executive director has expressed the idea that Orange County prosecutors are incapable of conducting an impartial investigation concerning death of Kelly Thomas after the 37-year-old homeless man was confronted by six Fullerton police officers.
The FBI is coming into play, to conduct a ‘parallel investigation’ to the the Orange County District Attorney's Office, searching into specifics surrounding the July 5 arrest of Kelly Thomas and his death five days later. The ACLU is happy about the FBI involvement: "We are pleased that the FBI will investigate [Kelly] Thomas' death," says executive director Hector Villagra.
At least 100 witnesses related to the Thomas beating or death are expected to play a role in those Orange County and FBI investigations.
It’s Villagra who is doubting the ability of Orange County prosecutors to perform an objective probe into Thomas' arrest and death, citing Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas track record – which Villagra calls ‘abysmal’ in terms of investigating and prosecuting officer-involved deaths.
It seems Villagra shows some good reason for concern: The ACLU rep cites an investigation by Los Angeles Weekly which concluded that -- of 50 officer-involved shootings in Orange County over a 5-year period -- not one investigation led to prosecution of a police officer in any instance. Villagra also cites the District Attorney Office’s clearance of two Huntington Beach police officers in 2007, cleared after shooting and killing an 18-year-old girl after she brandished a knife.
Villagra’s point: "The bottom line is that the [Orange County] District Attorney's Office is simply not the body to conduct an independent investigation. These are prosecutors accustomed to working with police officers and building their cases with the assistance of police officers. A thorough, impartial inquiry requires investigators who are not in daily contact with police; indeed, whose daily work doesn't require police cooperation."
Interestingly, the six Fullerton police officers removed from their duties are on leave – but that would be a paid administrative leave. So far, they’ve had nothing to lose. That could change if the FBI finds what it’s probing – that there was a possible violation of Kelly Thomas’ civil rights.
In the meantime, protests over the Kelly Thomas beating and death follow -- like the protest over Thomas' death at Fullerton Police Department captured on video.
A group by the name of Friends for Fullerton's Future has actively sought and found what it says is at least two additional witness to the Thomas beating that citizens call murder: The video of the first Kelly Thomas beating witness interview by Friends for Fullerton's Future is viewable here.
Friends for Fullerton's Future located another man, named 'Eddie', whom says he's been interviewed by a city D.A. and witnessed at least two to three people using cell phones or taking video of the horrific scene that was unfolding around the Thomas beating. 'Eddie' also claims he saw one Fullerton police officer grab a lady -- described to be in her 40s and taking pictures or recording video of the Thomas incident -- and that officer confiscate the device she was using to record evidence. The man also says he believes the woman was arrested by the Fullerton Police Department for interfering in an investigation. View the Friends for Fullerton video statement of the man who says police confiscated a bystander's camera in the Thomas beating.
Simultaneously, the family of Shawn Tischler is calling for support in finding its missing son: Missing Shawn Tischler shown in this video has not been seen since arrest by Long Beach (CA) police in June. Tischler, like Kelly Thomas, is schizophrenic. He is 30 years old and has not been found or seen again after the LPBD arrest on or near June 26, 2011 -- approximately 6 weeks ago.