[UPDATED with Fullerton Police Cite People For Honking At Protest:] Kelly Thomas' Story Goes National

UPDATE, SEPT. 10, 6:27 P.M.: Fullerton police officers have had little to no presence at the Kelly Thomas protests outside their building for the past several weeks. 

Today, however, they stepped up enforcement and issued citations to three motorists who honked as they drove past the protest. 

"It's not just the horn honking, but leaning on the horn," says Sgt. Andrew Goodrich, spokesman for the Fullerton Police Department, about the people who were cited for "illegal use of horn." The department issued three citations, one of which the captain voided, Goodrich says.
Goodrich says the police department has received "numerous complaints from residents and businesses" about the protesters in the past few weeks. The department received a complaint from one motorist who said their kids were frightened by a protester running in the streets.

"The question was being asked of us why were allowing protesters to flagrantly violate the law," Goodrich says, adding that the department has worked to give protesters some "latitude". The police department contacted protest organizers last night, and again this morning, to ask for cooperation, he says. 

Protester Christine Walker says a police officer pulled her aside this morning to tell her they planned to ticket people for "being in the streets too far" and for "honking too long." Walker says she thinks it's a move by the police department to make the protesters look bad. "The way that I feel is they're trying to get them riled up, so we look like a lynch mob, and we're not."

UPDATE, SEPT. 9, 2011, 6:36 P.M.:  In the wake of scathing public criticism after Kelly Thomas' death, Police Chief Michael Sellers took an emergency medical leave of absence in early August. Now, the leave of absence has been extended an extra 30 days. 

Sellers, who is on paid leave, earns $228,576 a year, the Times reports.
UPDATE, SEPT. 7, 10:53 A.M.: The personal injury attorney representing the family of Kelly Thomas has released to the media graphic new images depicting how Fullerton police officers killed the 37-year-old homeless man.

Garo Mardirossian maintains this evidence proves Thomas died of an assault by cops the attorney referred to as "brutal bullies," adding he hopes the release of the dead man's medical records will prompt prosecutors to take legal action against the arresting officers.

Asked by KTLA/Channel 5 reporter David Begnund what he believes was the cause of death based on the computer imaging, Mardirossian replied, "It is obvious that it was the brutal beating by these bullies, these Fullerton police officers.

The personal-injury lawyer first exposed the images on KTLA News at 10 last night:


UPDATE, SEPT. 6, 3:15 P.M.: Fullerton's City Council, which has had a slew of contentious meetings following the death of Kelly Thomas, was slated to meet tonight. The meeting was canceled, though, and some activists are crying foul. The city, however, says cancellations happen every year.

Doug Kauffman, an activist with A.N.S.W.E.R. LA, says he thinks the cancelled meeting sends a message. "They've had hundreds of people at city council meetings for the last month and now that pressure hasn't let up at all, the city council decided to shut down the meeting. It's a clear response from them."

But, the city says the cancellation is the norm. Every year the council members get together and pick which summer council meeting to skip, says city spokeswoman Sylvia Palmer Mudrick, adding that some council members have "family obligations." "It isn't always the September meeting. Sometimes it's in August, but there's always one meeting they'll be dark," Mudrick says.

While Fullertonians will have to wait until the next meeting to tell the city council how they feel, people continue to share their thoughts and insights into the Thomas case on the Friends For Fullerton's Future blog. One woman, identified in the blog post only as Bunny, says she took photos near the transit center on July 5 when police officers beat Kelly Thomas.

In the video interview on FFFF's website, Bunny says an officer intimidated her into destroying the film, which she eventually gave to him. "I thought they were going to give me a citation for taking pictures," she says, adding that she didn't know she had the right to keep her film. The woman says the district attorney's office has already interviewed her for its investigation. 

Although the film was destroyed, she says she remembers some powerful images from that night. "There was so much blood that you could see the reflection of the moon."

UPDATE, SEPTEMBER 1, 1:02 P.M.:Today, the Friends For Fullerton's Future blog posted a public records request response they got from the city of Fullerton's attorney.

A PDF of the letter, which you can read in the main blog post,  titled "The Missing Phone Call," shows the city's response to a request for police reports detailing any vehicle burglaries that happened near the Fullerton train depot on July 5 -- the day Fullerton police beat Kelly Thomas.

The letter refers to two different incidents that fit the time and location specified in the request, but neither seems to refer to the Thomas case. 

But, another interesting story is unfolding in the comments section below the post. Someone identified as "Kelly Supporter" says they know the person who called the cops on Kelly Thomas on July 5.  
Kelly Supporter writes: 
"I know the person who made the call. It exists and they feel horrible for placing it. They never would have imagined this would've happened. They were simply following protocol put in place by superiors. Please stop acting like the call is a big conspiracy it's putting more strain and pain on the caller." 

When asked by other commenters whether their friend had contacted the authorities, Kelly Supporter said the person had made "themselves available" to be interviewed by law enforcement, but hadn't been contacted yet.

UPDATE, AUGUST 30, 3:37 P.M.: For weeks, the people gathered outside the Fullerton Police Department on Saturdays to protest Kelly Thomas' death have asked for the same thing: answers. 

The Orange County District Attorney's Office, which is investigating the officer-involved death of Kelly Thomas, says they're well on the way to giving the people want they want.

District Attorney Tony Rackauckas told the Register yesterday that his office is more than halfway done with its investigation. "We're working on it day and night, frankly," Rackauckas says in a video interview on the Register's site. 

While Rackauckas seems to feel good about where they're at, a couple big chunks of the investigation are still missing: toxicology and cause of death reports. And, Rackauckas told the Register, that his investigators haven't interviewed the involved officers yet.

Aside from the protesters, there's someone else anxiously awaiting the conclusion of the DA's investigation -- Michael Gennaco.

The city of Fullerton hired Gennaco to do an independent investigation into Thomas' death and the police department as a whole. Gennaco has to wait until the DA finishes its criminal investigation until he can start his own investigation into the death, though.

For now, he's doing some broad investigating. Gennaco, who says he's been to Fullerton four times since he got the contract with the city, says he's already investigating "the more global issues," like police training methods and how the department investigates incidents.

UPDATE, AUGUST 26, 5:04 P.M.:
A man who allegedly witnessed the events that led up to the July 5 beating of Kelly Thomas by Fullerton police officers, approached blogger Tony Bushala recently and told him what he saw. 

Today, the Friends For Fullerton's Future blog posted a video of Chris Thompson interviewing the man, who doesn't give his name and whose face isn't shown. 

To hear the man's story of what he allegedly saw that night, visit the blog post and watch the video. Earlier in the month, another alleged witness spoke to FFFF, but when the Weekly approached the man at a recent protest, he said he'd been asked by lawyers not to comment for now.

UPDATE, AUGUST 25, 1:05 P.M.: ​The Orange County District Attorney's Office denied a public records request to release the names of the Fullerton police officers involved in the Kelly Thomas beating, citing officer safety and noting several threats made to the police department. 

The DA listed several incidents in their response to the Orange County Register, which requested the officer's names under the state's public records law. The DA opted not to release the names "after weighing peace officer safety and effectiveness against the public interest served by disclosure," according to the OC Register story. 

Sgt. Andrew Goodrich, spokesman for the Fullerton Police Department, told the Weekly he couldn't comment on the number of threats. The DA's letter to the Register lists 19 threats. 
Goodrich says the department is taking all threats -- including a bomb threat -- seriously, but added that there aren't currently any active investigations. The threats have been directed different places, Goodrich says. "I think there's been a variety of them at different voicemail boxes. I think some were at home numbers of officers, because other places had released information." The Friends For Fullerton's Future blog released the names of the officers who allegedly beat Kelly Thomas in a post earlier this month. 

Laura Eimiller, a spokeswoman for the FBI, which is also investigating the case, says the agency "certainly wouldn't be in a position to release the names." "That's more of a local policy thing," Eimiller says, adding that the agency's focus is on allegations of civil rights infringements. 

Christine Walker, a Fullerton resident who has attended several protests, said she started physically shake when she heard that the DA decided not to release the names. "They've been thinking from day one they could sweep it under the rug. It's like they think they can ignore justice. Kelly's army isn't going to stand for that."

UPDATED AUGUST 17, 5:20 P.M.: As word that one of the officers who allegedly beat Kelly Thomas -- Officer Kenton Hampton -- also allegedly beat another man in the past, the Fullerton Police Department admits they arrested the wrong guy in the latter incident.

The police arrested Veth Mam, who was using a cellphone to film as his friend scuffled with the officers, according to an LATimes story about the incident. Hampton allegedly, then, beat Mam. 

Acting Police Chief Kevin Hamilton asked for an internal affairs investigation after he saw the cellphone video shot by Mam, the LATimes reports. Here's what Sgt. Andrew Goodrich of Fullerton PD told the LATimes:
"Based upon reviews of the video, it is Hamilton's preliminary determination that we arrested the wrong guy that night. It was very chaotic scene that night." 

Attorney Garo Mardirossian is representing both Mam and the Thomas family.
Garo Mardirossian

UPDATED, AUGUST 16, 5:38 P.M.: When Garo Mardirossian, the personal injury attorney representing Kelly Thomas' family, went on CNN today, he made a big announcement.

Mardirossian is also representing Mr. MannVeth Mam, who like Kelly Thomas, was allegedly beaten by Officer Kenton Hampton.

Mardirossian contends, referring to a Youtube video of the incident: "We see the officer Kenton Hampton grab Mr. [Mam], throw him on the ground, knee his back. And Mr. [Mam] offered no resistance. He was not committing a crime. He was doing nothing wrong. He was just videotaping a police officer's interaction with one of his friends."

Unlike in the Kelly Thomas case, Mardirossian says, the officers weren't allowed to watch videotape of the incident before writing their reports. "In this case they didn't see the videotape and they wrote reports that are full of lies, that are false reports. And there will be a lawsuit filed on behalf of the man tomorrow in federal court." 

At the end of Mardirossian's interview, he made a plea: 
 "And the good officers -- I think not all six of these officers are equally culpable. There's got to be one or two of them that were not involved in the beating. Please, I beg of you, come forward, stop and break the code of silence. Come forward and tell us what happened. Tell us truth."

UPDATED, AUGUST 15, 12:21 A.M.: Notorious online hackers, Anonymous, threatened to wage cyber war against the Fullerton Police Department this weekend. 

As reported by the LA Weekly, our sister publication, the group is angry about Kelly Thomas' death and made several demands of the department:

1) We demand the prosecution of Officers Jay Cicinelli, Kenton Hampton, Manny Ramos, Joe Wolfe, James Blatney, and anyone else involved in the gruesome beating, torture, and murder of Kelly Thomas. 
2) We demand the immediate resignation of the Chief of Police in Fullerton, California. 
3) We demand that the City of Fullerton immediately pay a lump sum settlement of no less than 5 million dollars to the legal survivors of Kelly Thomas.

The LA Times reports that the police department knew about the planned attacks and worked to fortify its website.

So far, the group doesn't seem to have infiltrated the department's website, but Anonymous did successfully hack the Bay Area Rapid Transit's website Sunday, as detailed in the LA Times story.

Acting Police Chief Kevin Hamilton

UPDATED, AUGUST 12, 2:51 P.M.:  Acting Police Chief Kevin Hamilton, who took over the helm of the Fullerton Police Department a couple days ago after Chief Michael Sellers' medical leave, opened up to the OC Register about a surveillance video he saw.

"To get into a characterization of the video too much would certainly be disclosing evidence. What I can tell you is that there was certainly a significant amount of struggle between Mr. Thomas and the officers," Hamilton told the Register.

To hear more from Hamilton, including his brief comment on Sellers' medical condition, check out the video of the interview on the Register's website. 

A small group of protesters who gathered outside the Fullerton Police Department Wednesday evening expressed relief that Sellers was no longer in charge, but they insisted that their protesting was far from over. 

"They pissed off the wrong city, because this is the best city in the whole, wide world, but we're not giving up. We want justice, we need justice, for Kelly," says protester Christine Walker.

Another protester, who didn't want to give her name, says she knows Hamilton personally and thinks he'll do well in the leadership role. "Kevin Hamilton is one of the best people the department has. He's a policeman, but if there's a shady cop, he'd turn them in," says the woman, who says she met Hamilton through a citizen's police academy several years ago.

While the district attorney's office and the F.B.I. continue their investigations into the incident, City Manager Joe Felz wants the city to take things one step further. Felz asked the Fullerton city council to hold an emergency meeting this morning to decide whether they'd hire LA-based Michael Gennaco to lead an independent review into Kelly Thomas' death and the Fullerton Police Department practices, in general. 

The council did convene this morning and discussed the issue behind closed doors, says Syliva Palmer Mudrick, a spokeswoman for the city. "They decided to wait and vote on it at the regularly scheduled city council meeting. In the meantime, they asked Mr. Gennaco to prepare a report with the budget and things." 

Meanwhile, Ron Thomas told the Weekly that he decided it was time to file a lawsuit and had picked an attorney: Garo Mardirossian. 

Mardirossian held a press conference in Los Angeles earlier today.

"We don't believe all six of these officers are equally culpable. We believe at least three were pretty bad. We're hoping that one or two of these officers will come forward and break the code of silence. Tell us what happened. Why did they continue to beat Kelly Thomas after he was completely motionless?" 

UPDATED, AUGUST 10, 4:58 P.M.: Fullerton Police Chief Michael Sellers has been placed on medical leave, according to a statement just released by City Manager Joe Felz

Captain Kevin Hamilton, commander of the detective division, has been named acting chief by Felz. 

Sellers notified the city manager today that his doctor had placed him on medical leave, according to the statement. Click here to read the press release.

City Concilman Pat McKinley, who was Fullerton's police chief before Sellers, tells the Orange County Register that Sellers will not return.

That's fine with scores of residents who have been calling on the chief to step down in the wake of the Kelly Thomas beating.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Kelly-Thomas-Police-Beating-500x299-thumb-150x89-thumb-150x89-thumb-150x89.jpg
Courtesy of Fullertonsfuture.org 
UPDATED, AUGUST 9, 12:10 P.M.: Soon there could be another pair of investigative eyes on the Kelly Thomas case. 

Fullerton City Manager Joe Felz issued a statement yesterday asking the city council to hire Michael Gennaco, an LA-based independent consultant, to do a review of the police department.

Gennaco, who heads the Los Angeles County Office of Independent Review, a watchdog agency created in 2001, has a history of prosecuting police misconduct cases. In the early '90s, he prosecuted a case against two LAPD officers who used excessive force against an undocumented youth. Both officers were convicted, Gennaco tells the Weekly

Gennaco says he began discussions with the city of Fullerton last week. If the city council follows Felz's recommendation to hire him, Gennaco says the Thomas case will serve as the starting point of his review. 

"The Kelly Thomas case will educate us as to where the issues are and then we'll broaden our review based on where our issues take us," Gennaco says, adding that he'd look into the police department's training practices and hiring standards.  

UPDATED, AUGUST 9, 9:24 A.M.: A man who allegedly witnessed Kelly Thomas' beating says he saw a police officer confiscate the cell phone of a woman filming the incident. 

The witness, identified only as a Cal State Fullerton grad named Edwardrecalls what he saw that night in a video housed on Friends For Fullerton's Future blog.

Edward, who says he has already been interviewed by the district attorney's office about what he saw that night, allegedly heard a police officer say, "You're interfering with my investigation. I would appreciate if you don't take pictures." 

The officer eventually confiscated the woman's cell phone and took her behind the cop car, Edward says, adding that he's not sure if the officer ever gave the cell phone back to the woman, whom he describes as a short, heavy-set woman in her 40s.  

UPDATED, AUGUST 5, 6:49 P.M.: Following in Fullerton City Councilwoman Sharon Quirk-Silva's footsteps, Councilman Bruce Whitaker told a TV news station that he, too, is calling on Police Chief Michael Sellers to resign. And, if he doesn't, Whitaker says he might be forced out. 

UPDATED, AUGUST 5, 4:52 P.M.: Businessman Tony Bushala, who has blogged feverishly about Kelly Thomas' killing, is poised to follow through with a promise he made. 

At Fullerton's city council meeting Tuesday, Bushala got up during the public comment time to thank Councilwoman Sharon Quirk-Silva and Councilman Bruce Whitaker "for being courageous," saying they both "stood up and did the right thing," in the wake of Thomas' death at the hands of Fullerton police officers. 

Then, Bushala directed his comment to Mayor Richard Jones, Mayor Pro Tem Don Bankhead and councilman Pat McKinley, calling them, "You other three up here who have said nothing and sat on your hands."
He told them that within 72 hours he planned to serve them recall papers, adding that he had accrued a hefty budget to make it happen. 

A post on Friends For Fullerton's Future blog went up today saying the "Notice of Intent to Circulate Recall Petition" had been drafted and it asked registered voters who live in Fullerton to show up at Bushala's office before 3 p.m. today to sign the petition. 

Friday afternoon, Bushala says he has all of the signatures he needs and is ready to deliver the papers to the three men. "I'm going to their houses in a bit," Bushala says.

UPDATED, AUGUST 5, 10:17 A.M.: Friends For Fullerton's Future blog has posted the names of the officers they think were at Kelly Thomas's beating. Their list includes Jay Cicinelli, the retired, one-eyed LAPD officer, who eventually joined the Fullerton Police Department. For a list of the other names, check out their blog post. 

ORIGINAL POST, AUGUST 4, 3:19 P.M.: ​Aside from scores of citizens who spoke during the public comment period at the Fullerton City Council meeting Tuesday, at least one local public official is also calling for Police Chief Mike Sellers' resignation. This collective dissatisfaction is rooted in how the department has handled things in the wake of Kelly Thomas' death at the hands of six Fullerton police officers.

Fullerton City Councilwoman Sharon Quirk-Silva has made several TV news appearances asking Sellers to step down.

Several other bits of information have surfaced, as the story of this mentally ill transient, who was beaten to death by police officers, starts to go national.

Last night, Susan Kang Schroeder, chief of staff at the Orange County District Attorney's Office, went on CNN to talk about the story. The CNN anchor started the report by saying a Fullerton Police spokesman agreed to be on the show, but backed out at the last minute and, instead, sent over a two-line statement from Police Chief Sellers: "This was tragic for our community. We are in the midst of an investigation." 

After a couple of video clips, the CNN coverage cuts to Schroeder, who says the DA's office has assigned more than two dozen people to investigate the case. When asked about a video detailing the incident, which hasn't been released, Schroeder paused. "Your heart is sad watching what happens in the case," she said. "We have to put our emotions aside in the Orange County Attorney's Office and make sure we do a thorough and fair and a complete investigation." 

He alleges the following:
  • That the officers got to see a video of the incident while they were writing their reports of it.
  • That the officer who did the most damage to Thomas is a onetime LAPD officer, who was shot in the eye years back. The informant says LAPD wouldn't let the officer keep working, and he retired, but was eventually hired by the Fullerton Police Department. (Dennis Romero at our sister paper, LA Weekly, ID'd the one-eyed officer as Jay Cicinelli.)  
  • That after the beating, the aforementioned officer allegedly bragged in the locker room about "beating the crap" out of Thomas.
  • That the police reports were rewritten several times, as the higher-ups wanted to "clean up some things they didn't like." 
  • That the Fullerton Police Department has an ongoing problem with cover-ups and excessive "leeway." 
To see a video of witnesses talking about what they saw a few minutes after the beating, and for other updates, check the Friends For Fullerton's Future blog. 

A Facebook event for a protest in front of the Fullerton Police Department this Saturday -- this will be the fourth protest--already boasts more than 600 people who plan to attend.

FBI spokeswoman Lourdes Arocho says the agency opened an investigation last week to determine whether Thomas's civil rights were violated. After they finish the investigation, Arocho says, they'll submit their findings to the Department of Justice, which will then decide if it wants to prosecute.

The Weekly's previous coverage of Thomas' death:

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