The car driven by Miss Williams. From the OC Register.

Matthew Leslie

On July 5, the eighth anniversary of Kelly Thomas being beaten braindead by officers of the Fullerton Police Department, another of the department’s officers shot a seventeen year old teenager to death on the 91 freeway in neighboring Anaheim. There are terrible similarities between the aftermaths of each killing, including frustration on the part of the deceased’s family and the public over a lack of basic information being released by law enforcement agencies involved.

The Anaheim Police Department, who is investigating the shooting, declined to identify the dead teen, citing her age, but the initial press release from APD referred to her as a “suspect,” despite not specifying anywhere what crime she was suspected of committing. (Fullerton Police are conducting an internal investigation. Bob Dunn, recently appointed Chief of the FPD, spent seventeen years with the Anaheim Police Department).

The teen has since been identified by her family as Hannah Williams. According to news accounts, her baffled family are demanding answers about her death, describing her as a happy young person who enrolled in online college classes and worked as a lifeguard at Knott’s Berry Farm.

Media reports from the OC Register and LA Times referred to eyewitnesses who gave conflicting accounts of the teenager either raising what appeared to be a gun while exiting her vehicle or holding a cell phone.  Four days after the shooting the OC District Attorney’s office released a statement focusing primarily on a replica gun reportedly found at the scene. The press release went so far as to show side by side an image of the realistic looking gun next to an image of a Baretta handgun to emphasize the similarity between the two, but declined to specify where exactly the replica gun was found.

CBS news reported that the “The gun was found in the vehicle next to Williams, according to the Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer,” a confusing statement given the reports of eyewitnesses. The decision to emphasize the assumed danger faced by the officer was grossly reminiscent of the Fullerton Police Department’s efforts to portray Kelly Thomas as a dangerous criminal by releasing an old mugshot of him shortly after his brutal beating.

One of the critical reforms adopted by the FPD following the killing of Kelly Thomas was the wearing of body cameras by officers. Dashboard cameras were already standard. Like the Kelly Thomas case, authorities are refusing to release any recordings of the “encounter,” as it has been described in press releases, or even to confirm whether or not any such recordings exist.

One marked difference between the two cases is the timing of statements by the involved officers. At least following the Kelly Thomas case, reports were written by officers shortly after the beating, albeit after the controversial practice of allowing the officers to view footage of it–a decision made by Dan Hughes, later appointed Chief of FPD. Shockingly, the unidentified FPD officer who shot Miss Williams has reportedly not yet given an official statement about it.

The family, who complain that news media are being given more information about their daughter’s killing than they are, and the general public shouldn’t be in the dark about basic facts of this tragic death. It is almost impossible to imagine that authorities would not have released body footage already if an officer had been shot by a “civilian.” And, if the officer did not have his/her body cam activated, or the dash cam was not operable or had been somehow damaged in what is reported to have been a collision between the vehicles, why is that information not available? How long are we expected to wait for these answers? There are good reasons for efforts to establish a Fullerton Police Commission.

Release the tape.

 

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Matthew Leslie

At 5:30 p.m., May 7, the Fullerton City Council will hold a Study Session about the Hunt Library in the council chambers located at 303 W. Commonwealth Ave. The purpose of the session is to discuss “identifying and prioritizing future potential uses of the Hunt Branch Library as recommended by the Library Ad Hoc Committee.”

The full agenda report can be found at this link: https://fullerton.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3936489&GUID=0CB906F8-716A-4A3B-B07B-EDE3C7FB972E

The page includes a copy of the Library Ad Hoc Committee’s report to the Fullerton City Council, as well as a letter from the Library Board of Trustees, who wrote that “We endorse the goals presented by the Library Ad Hoc Committee, and we agree with their first priorities emphasizing a broad spectrum of literacy programs. This priority would include Art, Culture, Museum Uses, Events, Activities and Classes which would benefit the larger Fullerton community.”

On February 1 of this year the council directed city staff to schedule the study session in order to develop a Request for Proposals (RFP) to be issued by the city. Non-profits or other outside agencies could respond to the RFP with proposals to operate on the site, providing programming in accordance with list of prioritized uses identified by the Library Ad Hoc Committee (literary, arts and culture, events, classes, etc.).

The staff report for May 7 recommends developing an RFP to solicit partner organizations to not only provide compatible programming in accordance with those suggested by the Ad Hoc Committee, but also one that would obtain “grants and other funding for capital and other improvements to the building and grounds to modernize its technology ability, make it accessibility compliant, and to repair and / or replace necessary plumbing, electrical and mechanical systems,” suggesting that the city is not prepared to make these investments.

The agenda report anticipates considering responses to an issued RFP sometime before the end of this year.

The study session represents a valuable opportunity for supporters to attend and voice their support for keeping the Hunt Library in the public realm.

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Should we even try to fill in the blank?

Matthew Leslie

“The City of Fullerton is pleased to announce the Neighbors United For Fullerton will be hosting a public forum with Applicants for the City Council Vacancy at the Fullerton Public Library Conference Center at 6:45 p.m. on Monday, January 28, 2019.”

So reads a city press release advertising a hastily scheduled forum for the twenty five candidates who have submitted applications to fill a vacancy on the Fullerton City Council resulting from now-Mayor Jesus Silva switching from an at-large seat to one in District 3 in the November election. The forum will also serve as one of NUFF’s familiar meet-and-greet opportunities for candidates to speak directly to the public.

Awkward, a little? Perhaps, given that so more than two dozen people are asking the four members of the current council (or three of them, at least) to appoint them to fill out the rest of the at-large term that extends through 2020. It’s difficult to imagine how anyone will have time to properly evaluate so many candidates in such a short time frame. The forum itself is only happening because NUFF moved aside the program originally scheduled for this date and time to accommodate the City Council’s need for a meagre appearance of public process literally the night before possibly appointing one of these lucky Fullerton residents to the seat on Tuesday night, January 29 in during a Special Meeting called for that purpose.

To its credit, the city is live-streaming the forum on its Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/CityofFullerton

but no single forum can adequately serve even the four members of the council themselves in making an appointment that comes just days after the close of the application deadline. Most council members will no doubt simply ignore at least three quarters of the applicants, or more, in a tug of war to form a developer friendly majority for the next two years, with newly elected Ahmad Zahra holding the swing vote power to make it so. Let’s hope Mr. Zahra understands that joining forces with the likes of Jennifer Fitzgerald and Jesus Silva in supporting a candidate like Jan Flory or Larry Bennett will instantly relegate him to an insignificant minority voice on the council for the next two years.

Our best hope is a deadlock to force an election in November, but, meanwhile, enjoy the pretense of democracy tonight before the circus tomorrow night.

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