In response to the death of Kelly Thomas—the homeless, schizophrenic man from Fullerton, California who died after being Tased and brutally beaten by police officers last month—the hacktivist collective Anonymous has announced plans to attack the Fullerton Police Department's "Interwebz" if its demands aren't met.
A brief recap: On July 5, six Fullerton officers apprehended Thomas, 37, after someone reported that a burglar was breaking into cars parked near a Fullerton bus station. Officers claimed that Thomas—described by community members as "gentle" and "polite"—resisted arrest, but witnesses dispute that. The officers beat Thomas so badly that he fell into a coma; after several days on life support, he was taken off the machines and died. Two officers initially claimed that they suffered broken bones during the altercation, but this turned out not to be true.
Despite calls for investigation and public protests, five out of the six officers involved in the incident were soon released back on the streets. In late July, the FBI announced plans to launch an investigation of the incident; the local district attorney's office also said it was conducting an investigation.
In launching "Operation Fullerton," Anonymous sent a letter to the Fullerton Police Department—also posted at Pastebin—criticizing the local city government for having a "broken moral compass," and making the following demands:
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.
If the demands aren't met, the letter states, "We will begin to treat the web assets of the police, city government - and any other targets we deem in support or a cause of this incident with as much mercy as was shown to Kelly Thomas. He may have been silenced, but his screams will live on forever, and we will join him as Operation Fullerton."
As of this writing, Fullerton PD's website appears to be untouched (pics of Mueller the K-9 dog = nice, fuzzy touch to your home page, guys). The LA Times reports that the city's IT staff are monitoring the situation for signs of Anonymous hacktivity. We'll let you know if anything happens.
In other Kelly Thomas news, the Times reports that Thomas' parents Cathy and Ron (a former sheriff's deputy) have filed a police brutality claim against the city, and that Fullerton Police Chief Michael Sellers is on indefinite medical leave. Meanwhile, the six officers involved in the beating are on paid administrative leave, which seems just a bit too accommodating given circumstances. Yesterday, a group of at least 200 people protested against the Fullerton PD, and also demanded the recall of three city council members plus the release of a video that supposedly shows the Thomas beating.
At least one potentially positive development from all this tragedy is that the Orange County board of supervisors is looking at ways to implement Laura's Law, which is supposed to make it easier to provide long-term, consistent medical treatment to mentally ill people. Thomas's father—who tried in vain to get Kelly committed to long-term treatment so he could receive the care he needed—seems to be on board with the proposal.