Audio was released from a call made to police last year by an employee of the Slidebar who had spotted a homeless man known to her only as "Kelly" pulling on the door handles of cars in a Fullerton parking lot. Kelly Thomas died five days after Fullerton police responded to the scene, where they brutally beat him.
The city of Fullerton has released audio of the call to a police dispatcher that started the chain of events ending in the beating death of a mentally ill homeless man at the hands of police officers last year.
A woman who identifies herself as an employee of the Slidebar Rock-N-Roll Kitchen tells the operator that "the creepy homeless guy who looks like Jesus – his name's Kelly" was walking among cars in the parking lot, pulling on car handles.
Kelly Thomas died at age 37 five days after his confrontation police officers, igniting a storm of protest against Fullerton authorities.
Two of those former officers – who have recently left the Fullerton police force – are on trial for his death. Earlier this month, Manuel Ramos pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter; Jay Cicinelli pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter and excessive use of force.
Kelly Thomas Case: Timeline, Video, Photos, Articles
A judge on Tuesday said the city of Fullerton could release the call, which prosecutors had sought to keep private, according to the Orange County Register. They said the call's release would endanger the ongoing investigation and put the caller in danger.
The caller, whose name was redacted from the call audio track, appeared to be familiar with Thomas. She had called a direct line to police dispatch, a number that many downtown Fullerton businesses have, according to police spokesman Sgt. Jeff Stuart.
When the operator asks her if she's calling about "Dean Kelly," she responds: "Um, I don't know. I just know him as Kelly. He's, like, redhead. Years ago, he used to walk around with a hatchet."
She tells the officer that Thomas was walking between the bar and the bus depot.
"He's like pacing through the cars and between each car, like he's on an obstacle course through the parking lot," the caller said. "I just walked out to my car and he was walking toward me and I was like, 'Oh God.'"
She says Thomas is wearing a backpack, jeans and no shirt. The operator states at the end of the 1 minute, 45 second call that police will respond.
The Fullerton City Council on Tuesday voted to release the tape to honor a public records request made by resident Richard Dwyer on July 9.
Dwyer has said the caller was coached by Fullerton police to make up an illegal activity to quicken response.
A former employee of the Slidebar, Michael Reeves, last month filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the restaurant that alleged that bar managers attempted to cover up their involvement in Thomas' beating. Reeves alleged the bar had adopted a "no-homeless-people policy."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
NOTE: An earlier version of this story incorrectly story stated the call was made to 911. In fact, the call was placed directly to Fullerton's police dispatcher, a number that many businesses downtown have, according to a police department spokesman.