SANTA ANA, Calif. (CN) – A police beating that killed a mentally ill homeless man in Fullerton was the “inevitable result of the culture of corruption” in the city’s police department, the man’s father claims in court.
Frederick Thomas Jr. sued Fullerton, its police chief and seven named police officers in Orange County Court. He blamed them for the death of his son, Kelly James Thomas, last summer.
Two of the officers who beat his son to death have been charged with murder, Thomas says in the complaint.
Thomas claims that on July 5, 2011, Fullerton police officers harassed his sun at a bus stop, then attacked him for nearly 10 minutes with “batons, hands, elbows, fists, knees and a Taser gun.”
As the police beat him, Kelly called out more than 30 times for his father, the complaint states. “Kelly uttered, ‘Dad, they’re killing me Dad,’ while he lay bleeding on the ground and drowning in his blood,'” the complaint states.
The father claims that aggressive police officers gave his son conflicting commands, threatened to “fuck you up,” then struck him with a baton.
“For the next 9 minutes and 40 seconds, the defendant police officers, including [Manuel Anthony] Ramos, [Joseph] Wolfe, [Jay Patrick] Cicinelli and [Kenton] Hampton continued to beat Kelly with their batons, hands, elbows, fists, knees and a Taser gun, even while Kelly repeatedly apologized and said ‘I’m sorry’ at least 15 times and said ‘okay’ at least 30 times as he tried to comply and begged for help. Even though Kelly repeatedly told the officers at least 8 times that he could not breathe, the officers ignored him and continued to place their combined body weight on top of Kelly’s body. Even though Kelly could have been restrained with the use of less than lethal control holds and handcuffs, the defendant officers, and each of them, used deadly force by striking Kelly repeatedly in the head and face, causing multiple facial and nose fractures. Despite the fact that Kelly was on the ground with several officers on top of him, defendants agreed to use and Cicinelli did use his Taser gun to apply painful electrical shocks into a terrified Kelly. Defendants and each of them, ignored the 12 times Kelly said ‘please’ and ‘please sir’, and the 26 times he asked for help. Defendant Wolfe used his elbow at least twice to strike Kelly on the face. Defendant Cicinelli struck Kelly repeatedly in the face with his Taser gun, and by his own admission, ‘smashed his face to hell.’ Kelly knew that the officers intended to hurt him and he called out at least 31 times for his dad to rescue him. Indeed, Kelly uttered ‘Dad, they’re killing me Dad,’ while he lay bleeding on the ground and drowning in his blood.”
Kelly’s father adds: “Kelly did not die immediately, but he was in respiratory distress when paramedics transported him to St. Jude Medical Center and then to DC Irvine Medical Center for medical treatment, where he was diagnosed with significant facial trauma including multiple nasal fractures with significant bleeding and swelling, left cheekbone fracture, swollen black eyes and a hemorrhaged left eye, facial and lip lacerations, contusions and abrasions. He also had left and right rib fractures and multiple bruises, abrasions and swelling all over his body. He was found with severe metabolic acidosis, hemorrhagic shock, and aspiration of blood into his lungs. MRI scans showed he had suffered a diffuse anoxic brain injury. He remained hospitalized until his death on July 10, 2011.”
What set the police off, the father is says, is that they found some mail addressed to someone else when they searched Kelly’s backpack.
According to the complaint, the Orange County District Attorney charged Ramos and Cicinelli with murder, and criminal charges against the other officers are “under review.”
Frederick Thomas claims that Fullerton police officers often have to deal with mentally ill and homeless people, but the city fails to train them properly for the task.
“The murder of Kelly Thomas was the inevitable result of the culture of corruption and deliberate indifference within the City of Fullerton Police Department,” the complaint states. “The city’s police department has a longstanding reputation of running roughshod on its citizens’ constitutional rights, ignoring citizen complaints and issuing no discipline to officers accused of wrongdoing.”
Frederick Thomas cites several instances in which Fullerton police officers allegedly made false arrests sexually assaulted or beat people. But he says the city generally ignores such abuses.
“It condones its police officers’ aggressive practices of arresting citizens without probable cause, using ‘cover up’ offenses such as ‘resisting arrest’ or ‘drunk in public’ and using arrests as punishment for citizens’ exercise of their First Amendment rights which its officers instead perceive as ‘contempt of cop,'” the complaint states.
Thomas claims such constitutional violations have become “standard operating procedure” in the police department.
Thomas seeks damages for assault and battery, negligence, wrongful death, and civil rights violations.
He is represented by Garo Mardirossian, of Los Angeles.