January 13 marks the first anniversary of two officers charged in the death of Kelly Thomas being found not guilty by a jury, and the announcement by the office of the District Attorney that charges against a third officer would be dropped. This anniversary will be observed at 6:30 tonight at Kelly’s Corner, 123 E. Santa Fe Avenue, near the spot where the schizophrenic homeless man was beaten so severely by Fullerton police officers that he never regained consciousness.
In the three and a half years since his death, Kelly’s final heartbreaking cries of “Dad! Help me. Help me. Help me, dad!” as officers pummeled him with blows have been echoed by gasps of “I can’t breathe” by a more recent victim of unjustified police violence. Others had no chance to speak before being gunned down. Although nationwide killings by police have been, with some justification, cited as acts of racism against people of color, the killing of Kelly Thomas, who was white, demonstrated that unprovoked and/or excessive acts of violence by police officers against civilians (and sometimes themselves) in the United States is an equal opportunity epidemic.
A year ago a police helicopter hovered overhead as an angry, but peaceful, crowd pondered the state of their society, where a man’s beating death could be captured on videotape, but the perpetrators could go completely unpunished by the law. On that night, it seemed that only those outraged by these circumstances would be subject to the force of the law.
Three and a half years after the killing of Mr. Thomas, the three officers originally charged in his death have been fired, but three more present at the scene are still on the force. There is still no public oversight of the Fullerton Police Department. Instead, the Office of Independent Review was contracted to periodically audit materials selected by the Chief of Police from it’s own internal affairs investigations. We await the public release of the first review…