FULLERTON, CALIFORNIA – The Orange County District Attorney’s Office is looking for witnesses to a physical altercation between Fullerton police and a homeless man that led to his death.
Kelly Thomas, 37, was taken off life support and died five days after the altercation with police, who believed Thomas to be a burglary suspect.
Ron Thomas, Kelly’s father, has said repeatedly that police beat his son to death.
The DA’s Office, which is investigating the case, released a statement Wednesday asking anyone with information to contact investigator Stan Berry at 714-347-8831.
The incident occurred about 8:30 p.m. July 5 when officers responded to reports of a shirtless “homeless-looking man,” who may have been trying to burglarize cars in a parking lot next to a bus depot in the 100 block of South Pomona Avenue, Sgt. Andrew Goodrich said.
Officers spotted Thomas, who fit the description.
Items in his backpack led the officers to believe that Thomas had committed either a burglary or was in possession of stolen property, the sergeant said.
Thomas, who suffered from schizophrenia, began to fight officers as they tried to search him, police have said.
Thomas sustained head and neck injuries during the fight and was taken to UCI Medical Center in Orange, where he was taken off life support July 10.
The investigation was turned over to the DA’s Office on July 7 when “it became apparent that death was imminent, Goodrich said.
Ron Thomas, a former Orange County Sheriff’s Department deputy, spoke to members of the media Wednesday afternoon at the site of the fight with his wife Cathy at his side.
After seeing his son’s injuries and talking with witnesses, Thomas said his son “was brutally beaten to death.”
“When I first walked into the hospital, I looked at what his mother described as my son … I didn’t recognize him,” Thomas said. “This is cold-blooded, aggravated murder.”
Witnesses told Thomas that his son was sitting on a bench when first approached by police, Thomas said.
Witnesses added that officers hit him on the back of a leg with a baton and Tasered him, he said.
Thomas tried to run away but only made it a few feet before being caught by two officers and “then that is when it all happened,” said Ron Thomas, based on what he was told by witnesses.
Witnesses told Thomas his son wasn’t moving but was still hit with the butt ends of flashlights and Tasered, he said.
“There is no explanation for it,” Ron Thomas said. “I call it rogue bad cops, not the Fullerton Police Department. There is no justification for beating someone to death.”
Ron Thomas said his son, who was supposed to be taking medication, had likely not been taking his medication “for a long time” and didn’t understood officer’s commands.
No information will be released until the investigation is completed, according to the statement from the DA’s Office.
“The media and public will be notified at that time and the investigative findings and legal conclusions will be available at http://www.orangecountyda.com.”
Fullerton Police are also conducting an internal investigation, Goodrich said.
Ron Thomas said he hopes anyone with information will contact the DA’s Office.
“Right now,” he said.