Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Kelly Thomas Death (Proceed With Caution)

Let me say right up front and un-apologetically that I'm a big supporter of law enforcement. I understand and admire the hard work they do to keep us safe.   I personally know many police officers - my best friend since we were five years old was with the Los Angeles Police Department for 31 years before retiring.  Through him I know many officers from many jurisdictions.  I consider many current and former members of the Costa Mesa Police Department as friends.  Former LAPD chief Daryl Gates was a friend.  Heck, I went to high school with Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca.  

That being said, the incident in Fullerton nearly a year ago that took the life of Kelly Thomas, a homeless man, has caused me much distress.

The trial of two Fullerton police officers began this week and the tapes of the event are now available for viewing.  Let me tell you, watching them is VERY painful.  I'm providing these tapes for you to watch if you choose to do so.  I suggest that you NOT permit children to see these tapes - they are much, much too powerful.


There have been many things written and said about this incident.  I've tried to stay abreast of the news as it occurred.  I've read most of the local things - newspaper articles, blog posts, etc - and heard local radio commentators rant about this case.  You can read a recent Orange County Register story HERE.  It also includes a link to a short video of the event.  It has a slide show of still images, too.

You can read Greg Diamond's piece in the Orange Juice Blog HERE.  He includes a link to the longer, un-edited version of the tape.  And, you can read a piece from the Voice of OC HERE.

This is a very troubling event and, as you watch the tape, you'll probably come away feeling the same way.  It may cause some of you to unfairly indict ALL police officers and to make you distrust them.  That's a shame.


This event has long tentacles.  It may cost three Fullerton City Council members their positions - a recall effort is in progress.  One of those men was the former Police Chief for Fullerton before he ran for City Council.

Here is the short, almost 9 minute, tape.  This one has better audio clarity, but compresses events and, in my opinion, distorts it a little.  It will certainly evoke emotion from anyone viewing it.

This tape is the longer, 33 minute unedited version.  The audio is a little more difficult to hear in the beginning but watching this through to the end will tear your heart out.  You watch Kelly Thomas, handcuffed and incapacitated, on the ground surrounded by at least a half-dozen officers as the blood pool from his wounds grows.  You'll hear the firefighters/paramedics express concern about placing him on a gurney on his back for fear that he would aspirate his own blood.  Again, this should not be viewed casually.  You will not forget the images once you see them.  The sound of Thomas crying out for his father while being subdued is going to ring in my head for a long, long time.

I don't know what the outcome of the trial will be.  I do know that this event has caused huge changes in Fullerton and will likely cause other municipalities and police organizations to more carefully assess their policies.

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Anonymous Watch out said...

The very few bad cops have forgotten what the rest of us have known for years: There are cameras everywhere. Everyone has a camera. Time to be on your best behavior.

5/08/2012 12:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Do not indict all cops said...

I am also pro-law enforcement. This was a brutal crime - they were not subduing Thomas, they were viciously beating him, with the intent to hurt him, not subdue him. That is irrefutable, based on the officer's own statements.

I have a great deal of confidence that this was an aberration and that all but a very few cops in other jurisdictions, and NONE of our fine CMPD officers would never commit a crime like this.

After watching these tapes, I sincerely hope that the two FPD officers are found guilty as charged and receive the maximum possible sentences.

5/08/2012 12:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Station 44 said...

As a CMPD Officer, I can say this was very hard to watch. This is obviously not what police officers are paid to do and should be a reminder of why it is so very important to maintain a healthy police department that serves it's community. I feel the key to achieving this goal is recruitment and retention of rare individuals that have what it takes to be quality police officers. Contrary to councils' beliefs, very few people can do what we do.

I can honestly say that this would never happen in Costa Mesa today, but I can't say this about our city's future. The current political tactics and agenda has destroyed what generations of CMPD Officers were very proud of. Our already understaffed police department will continue to lose quality officers to surrounding agencies. To say recruitment of quality applicants will be difficult is an understatement. The good applicants we do get will only move on to other departments once they get the training and experience needed. This is a vicious cycle that will cost, not save the city money.

5/08/2012 03:47:00 PM  
Anonymous almostdone said...

One of the things that most people have no concept of is how difficult it is to become a police officer for a city with a highly regarded police dept. Thousands apply and only a small percentage make the cut.
That is the way it should be and this incident in Fullerton is a clear example of why it needs to be that way.

The homeless population in Costa Mesa is worse than in Fullerton but this didn't happen here. Why do you suppose that is?

Costa Mesa has been fortunate to have one of the better police depts and that hasn't been just luck.

Depending on what happens in november (and consiquently afterwards) will determine if the police dept here will be able to continue to hire and retain the quality that has prevented this kind of disaster (and it's financial consiquences) from happening here.

Something to think about.... The first thing Righeimer did was start to dismantel the PD (starting with ABLE).
He's stated that he wants to replace officers with part time reserves and dictate across the board pay cuts when their contract expires.

Just remember... It isn't the uniform and the badge that makes the cop. It's the person wearing it.
Righeimer can fill those uniforms with whoever he can get when the time comes. That won't be a problem.

The problem comes later.

5/08/2012 06:23:00 PM  
Anonymous WRONG!!! said...

"Do Not Indict All Cops" you are sooooo wrong!!!

Back in 1981 a similar "murder by cops" happened on Presidio in Mesa Del Mar. Arnold Broyles, Jr. was deliberately shot dead IN HIS OWN HOME by a CMPD Swat Team.

My father was a long time cop and he said roughly half of the cops are decent human beings, --- the other half enjoy abusing the power they wield.

The killing of innocent citizens will never be stopped unless such sub human cops are given the death sentence for their crimes. Giving them a free pass only encourages more of their bad behavior.

5/08/2012 08:33:00 PM  
Blogger Mike H. said...

I cried.

5/08/2012 09:42:00 PM  
Anonymous False! said...

almostdone: You wrote, "The homeless population in Costa Mesa is worse than in Fullerton but this didn't happen here." That claim is not true. Costa Mesa has a disproportionally low homeless population per capita as evidenced by the Vanguard University surveys. So unless you can provide some solid evidence to support your claim, just stick to the facts that you know. Thank you.

5/08/2012 10:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Writers just lie said...

Teri Sforza once again peddling her lies. Why are these people so disgustingly deceitful these writers? Can't they be honest or doesn't it serve their purpose?

Her latest attack and attempt to anger people at public workers again is based on deceit.

There is a calculator for public pensions. No problem with that. But when she compares the calculations to the private sector she uses only cash savings needed to match that of the public worker. She leaves out Social Security which is the private sector retirement DEFINED BENEFIT. Yes the DEFINED BENEFIT paid by social security is at a lessor formula to not include that as part of private sector retirement is basically a lie.

5/08/2012 11:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Sad but True said...

Parents of mentally ill children and adults can tell you some hair raising stories of their encounters with law enforcement personnel.

Kelly Thomas was beaten to death. Most of the badly beaten mentally ill survive so the public doesn't know how they suffer at the hands of sadistic police officers.

You can thank Ronald Reagan for the presence of all the mentally ill people on our streets and in our parks. Ronald Reagan opened the doors of all the California mental hospitals on June 27, 1967 and released all the patients onto the streets. He said the taxpayers should not have to take care of them. They had no place else to go but to Skid Row, the streets, the parks, etc.

It's long past time we right the wrongs of the Reagan Administration. I thought it was only fair that Reagan's life ended with him having Alzheimer's. It's a shame he wasn't put out on the street to die like all the other people he killed that way. It's ironic that the taxpayers had to pay for his life ending mental illness, but no one else was shown that kindness. He died in luxurious splendor while the mentally ill family members of taxpayers died on the cold, hard, streets.

5/08/2012 11:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Writers just lie said...

The disparity is arguable but again to leave out Social Security and compare CalPers to stricly a cash retirement savings is absolutley deceitful by the OC Register writer Sforza. But I guess one should expect that from her by now.

From the SS Official website. Clearly a defined benefit.
How the Retirement Estimator Works
The Retirement Estimator gives estimates based on your actual Social Security earnings record. Please keep in mind that these are just estimates. We can’t provide your actual benefit amount until you apply for benefits. And that amount may differ from the estimates provided because:

5/09/2012 12:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Writers just lie said...

Too bad there can't be an honest dialogue and a reasonable solution to benefit the Tax Payer, Residents, Employees, Cities etc.
Where are the real leaders who could do this?

5/09/2012 12:21:00 AM  
Anonymous bottleinabag said...

"False!"... thank you for chiming in Mr. Righeimer!
I guess you don't think Costa Mesa has a homeless problem that could lead to what happened in Fullerton.
I think what you really object to is someone calling you on what you're planning for the PD here.

"WRONG!!!"... I guess you think that public safety standards and practices havent changed in Costa Mesa in over 30 years and that half the police here in Costa Mesa are thugs who "enjoy abusing their power".
When the council has replaced all the current thugs with mild manored security guards who couldn't get hired anywhere else, they'll be alot nicer.

5/09/2012 06:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Freud said...

Sad But True:
"Reagan opened the doors of all the California mental hospitals on June 27, 1967 and released all the patients onto the streets. He said the taxpayers should not have to take care of them. They had no place else to go but to Skid Row, the streets, the parks, etc."

Please. Many of them have done quite well. Why, look at our Riggy!

5/09/2012 06:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Station 44 said...

False, fitting name for your comments. You have your head in the sand if you don't think Costa Mesa has a transient problem. From speaking with people who know and my personal experience, Costa Mesa has the worst transient issue in the county. Have you even driven down 19th St lately?

I have not seen or heard of ths Vanguard study you speak of….Please post a link to back up your claims.

5/09/2012 09:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Confused said...

I thought Fitzpatrick was homeless by the way he dresses, but apparently not.

I thought Righeimer was homeless when I saw him carrying stuff, but someone told me that was only his carpetbag.

I thought Mensinger was homeless when I heard he got into a confrontation with a teacher in the park. Then I heard this is not unusual for him.

I thought McCarthy was homeless when he showed up at city hall with two pails. Then I found out he was only carrying water for Mensinger and Righeimer.

5/09/2012 12:49:00 PM  
Anonymous 44 Eagle said...

It's easy to play monday morning quarter back and feel anger for the police when we watch the video from the comfort of our homes.

Rather than feeling anger for the police, I feel anger toward Kelly Thomas. The media tries to portray him as a victim in a "brutal" police beating. However, let me remind you that the police were responding to a call of a man looking into cars. It could have ben your car Kelly was going to break into for the 100th time.

Thomas, in my opinion, was a menace to society. Sure he had mental problems. Take your meds Thomas! I love how the father comes out of nowhere and tries to sue for millons. What a shame society has become. Funny how the parents file a restraining order against their mentally violent son one day and then when he dies and they smell dollar signs, they come out of nowhere.

Yes, the cries for Kelly Thomas will stay with you. I weep for the families that have been ruined because of this sick individual who chooses not to take his meds and blame his father for not caring enough to help is son. He did portray himself as a loving father right?

I hope you post this comment Geoff. Be fair and display both sides.

Do I feel bad Thomas died? Sure. But I don't blame the police. People need to take responsibility of their own actions. Take your meds, take care of your son who won't take his meds. Thomas should have been in a mental institution like Fairview at Costa Mesa. I nominate Righeimer to head up that facility!

5/09/2012 07:37:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

44 Eagle,
Certainly, there are two sides to the story. On the tape you can hear one officer describing to Ramos some of the contents of Kelly's backpack - mail addressed to someone else. It sounded like they were going to arrest him for possessing that mail when the stuff hit the fan.

You've read my stuff before. You know I'm sympathetic to the job the police are expected to do. Those officers arriving late to the event didn't know the preamble. I understand all that.

Still, we have a mentally disturbed young man who was beaten to death. I have a hard time not being sympathetic to his parents.

5/09/2012 09:32:00 PM  

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