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Fullerton fatal police beating still fresh in community's mind

August 3, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Things got heated at Fullerton City Hall, where a crowd joined the father of a man who was allegedly beaten to death by police.

Residents are demanding answers from the city after 37-year-old Kelly Thomas died after a confrontation with officers.

The anger from Tuesday night's meeting still echoed through the city offices Wednesday morning. Nearly 200 people turned out, all of them outraged over the alleged beating death of Thomas.

"Chief, man up. Step down. Thank you," said one resident, followed by applause.

That was the tone of the raucous city council meeting. An angry mob poured out of the council chambers, demanding that someone be held accountable for Thomas' death.

"Let's call it what it is. It's murder," said another outraged resident.

Fullerton Mayor Richard Jones says he too has not seen any of the police evidence of the July 5 incident. Jones described the incident as a tragedy that deeply affected Thomas' friends and family.

Police said Thomas, who was homeless and schizophrenic, was suspected of burglarizing cars at the local bus depot that night and was fighting back as officers tried to arrest him.

In a YouTube video, you can hear the sound of Tasers and Thomas calling out for his father.

"The last words of his life, 'Dad, dad.' I want you to hear that for the rest of your life like I will," said Thomas' father Ron Thomas. Ron Thomas is a former Orange County Sheriff's Department deputy.

The mourning father received a standing ovation when he spoke Tuesday night. He took a graphic picture of his son after the alleged beating.

"It's a very troubling photo. I think everybody at the police department is in support that if there was criminal wrong doing, then those officers need to be held accountable," said Fullerton Police Sgt. Andrew Goodrich. "But that hasn't been found yet. And if there's not criminal wrong doing, then that will be addressed, but we have to wait. We have to be patient."

But for many residents, this investigation isn't going fast enough.

At Tuesday's meeting, there were multiple calls for the mayor and police chief of Fullerton to step down. However, they said they have no plans to budge.

"We've very much asked that our attorneys try to communicate with the D.A.'s office, who've been very cooperative, and see if the investigation could speed up some and release some of the information," said Mayor Jones Wednesday.

"Everybody at the police department is in support that if there was criminal wrongdoing then those officers need to be held accountable, but that hasn't been found yet," said Lt. Goodrich Wednesday.

The six officers involved in the incident have all been placed on paid administrative leave.

The Orange County District Attorney's Office is waiting for the results of toxicology tests to determine if any criminal charges will be filed against the officers.

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