There’s definitely more than a little truth in the old adage “The wheel’s of justice turn slowly.” In my opinion they turn much too slowly. It’s been nearly two and a half years since the usually quiet little college town of Fullerton CA became the center of the nations attention when a half dozen of their finest men in blue surrounded Kelly Thomas, a mentally ill, homeless man, tasered him repeatedly, kicked and kneed him in the head and body, and allegedly struck him with their weapons and flashlights. They beat him so savagely that his face and head were covered with cuts and bruises and was grotesquely swollen. The assault left the young man comatose. He died 5 days later as a result of the beating. Two officers were charged in the killing. Twenty-nine months after the savage attack the trial of the two officers is finally underway.
In spite of the passage of time I’m sure we all remember the outrageous case of police brutality. Video and sound recordings of the incident played on for months after the July 5, 2011 incident. Who can forget hearing Thomas as he lay in the parking lot, battered and bloody, screaming for his dad to help him or video of former officer Manuel Ramos hoovering over Thomas, pulling on his gloves and saying something in the order of “see these fists they’re going to fuck you up.” Most of those who witnessed the beating believed the officers over-reacted and employed an unusually high degree of excessive force that was not called for. They said that Thomas was not combative and was only raising his arms to protect himself.
What still troubles me is that Thomas regularly hung around the downtown area and was well known by many of the local businesses. People who knew Kelly say that although he suffered from a mental disorder, he was harmless and gentle. It was obvious that he had some kind of problem, but not of a violent nature. Officers, including the two who are charged with his death, knew him and had spoken with him on downtown streets several times before. It would seem to make sense that they were aware of his condition. So then why did they react so violently towards him that July night? It was originally reported that Kelly had been involved in a vehicle break-in that night and that that is why the police responded. But later investigators determined Thomas wasn’t involved in any wrongdoing.
What really happen that evening in Fullerton? Did the slightly built Kelly really offer so much resistance that such brutal force was necessary? Local citizens don’t think so and neither do many across the nation who have been following this case. They believe as I do that this is a blatant case of police brutality in its ugliest form, and what was captured on surveillance video, cell phones and audio recordings attests to that conclusion.
So was Kelly Thomas the victim of a bunch of ruthless, savage policemen on an adrenaline high or did he really pose a threat to the public and safety of the six officers involved? Perhaps the trial which begins today will shed some light on the truth of the incident. You can rest assured the the defense attorneys for the two former policemen will be painting a very different picture of Thomas in the courtroom. As is par for a case like this it will be Thomas’ past which will be on trial here. Defense attorneys will paint a picture of a violent and dangerous man who had many previous run ins with the law, a man who should not have been on the streets. They’ll focus on Thomas’ long history of violence and drug abuse and are sure to include such things as an alleged attack on his grandfather and the fact that his own mother had sought to get a restraining order against him. Yeah it’s going to be ugly.
Will there be justice for Kelly Thomas or will the officers be vindicated? Had they been brought to trial within six months of the beating when emotions and interest in the case still ran high, I believe they would have easily been found guilty. But with the too long, 29 month cooling off period between the beating death and the actual trial, anything is possible. Whatever happened to a speedy trial? So will there be justice for Kelly? We’ll just have to wait and see.
“Justice delayed is NOT justice denied; it’s just delayed. And there will be justice.” Yeah, Maybe…
Just a thought…