The feds are now investigating the death of Kelly Thomas, a homeless, schizophrenic man who died earlier this month after being severely beaten by Fullerton, California police officers. If agents determine that Thomas' civil rights were violated, they'll send their info to the Department of Justice, who can file charges.
Being beaten until you're unrecognizable, and being beaten until you fall into a coma and die—those sounds like pretty substantial civil rights violations, no? Shawn Nelson, a member of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, seems to think maybe yes; Nelson's the party who sent the FBI a letter asking them to investigate Thomas' death, which took place July 5 in a Fullerton bus depot after six officers apprehended Thomas upon concluding that the unarmed man was possibly burglarizing parked cars.
The Orange County District Attorney's office is conducting its own investigation, which will remain separate from the FBI's. Spokesmen for the Fullerton police publicly say the department will cooperate, which shouldn't come as a surprise; given the horrific nature of photographs of Thomas taken after his assault, resisting an investigation would make them look even worse. And that's something they can't afford, especially given this radio testimonial from a "friend" of Fullerton cops who says video of the altercation between police and Thomas shows officers beating and kneeing Thomas with the Taser gun while Thomas was doing "absolutely nothing."
And speaking of "absolutely nothing," that might be what the DA's investigation amounts to, considering that the Fullerton police chief and the DA's Office investigator handling the Thomas case seem to be pals. Friends for Fullerton's Future, which has been documenting much of the goings-on related to Thomas' case, received a note saying as much:
[Fullerton police chief ] Michael Sellers and his wife Rita Fraser-Sellers, are close personal friends with [investigator Stan] Berry and his wife, Kristen Berry, the Dispatch Supervisor in Seal Beach. They socialize together, vacation together and entertain each other in their respective homes.
Of all the DA investigators, why choose Berry, other than he will help cover for his friend.
In other news, Thomas' family members and supporters are hosting a two-hour protest and vigil in Fullerton today. It's not the first such event, and probably not the last. The OC Weekly reports that the city tried to settle with Thomas's grieving parents for $900,000—an amount that would have been higher, except that Thomas "was 'no rocket scientist,'" as city officials put it. Apparently, having a mental illness reduces your value as a human being under some sort of unwritten Fullerton municipal code! Maybe that's why five out of the six officers involved in the beating are now back on the streets, as though their actions hadn't just resulted in the death of a man.