• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

Hundreds gather in Fullerton for Kelly Thomas protest

August 6, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Protesters took to the streets in Fullerton Saturday, as public anger continues to boil over the death of a homeless man following a violent encounter with police officers.

Hundreds of people fanned out on all four corners of the intersection of Highland and Commonwealth avenues, holding up homemade signs and chanting "justice for Kelly" and "jail killer cops." The demonstration began at 9:30 a.m. and the crowd grew over the course of three hours.

People who knew Kelly Thomas and those who never met the 37-year-old homeless man were united by their demands for justice and their disgust with the Fullerton Police Department.

A candlelight vigil was held Friday at the bus depot where the incident occurred July 5. At the time, police suspected Thomas of burglarizing cars.

When six officers responded to the transit hub, they said Thomas ran and resisted arrest. The district attorney's office is reviewing video of the incident - two tapes shot by witnesses and another from a police surveillance camera at the bus stop. Charges have not been filed at this time.

"These are animals who did this to this man. No human would ever do something like this to another human. They killed my friend," said Thomas' friend William Acosta.

A photo of Thomas has been circulating on the Internet and has sparked outrage in the community.

The photo, which shows Thomas' face bruised and bloodied almost beyond recognition, was taken by his father, Ron Thomas, shortly after the beating.

Thomas' father said his son suffered from schizophrenia and had been in and out of mental health facilities for years. His family says police need more training on how to handle mentally-ill people.

Some are calling for Fullerton's Police Chief Michael Sellers to step down over the department's handling of Thomas' death.

The officers involved in the incident are reportedly receiving death threats. Ron Thomas said the officers who beat his son should be tried for murder and receive the death penalty.

"As far as death threats against the individual officers, you know what? They need to die as far as I'm concerned, but I'm not advocating somebody go out and kill them. I want it done in a court system. They need to go to prison - whatever the legal system does to them," said Thomas' father Ron Thomas.

The names of the six officers involved were made public on a Fullerton-based blog. Some of those officers have reportedly moved into motel rooms for anonymity.

Thomas' mother said she is touched by the overwhelming support that is growing in Orange County and places as far away as Germany.

"This has just been overwhelming to me. It makes my heart feel better. I'm definitely amazed. I love it," said Thomas mother, Kathy Thomas.

Laura Hagen recently heard about the case and was so outraged, she came out to support Thomas' family. It's the first protest she has ever attended in her life.

"I'm sad. I'm angry. I'm shocked. I would just like to see the people that did this held accountable," said Hagen. "I'm hoping that justice is served."

The office of Fullerton Mayor Richard Jones is telling the city to not rush to judgment in the case.

Chief Sellers said he has no intention at this point to step down and has yet to speak out publically about Kelly Thomas. He did, however, issue a written statement that read, "This was a tragedy for our community. We are in the midst of an investigation."

Two city council members have called on Sellers to step down.


Load Comments