Coverage of the trial involving two ex-police officers charged in the death of a homeless man

Father of Kelly Thomas Welcomes Fullerton Chief's Medical Leave

Ron Thomas says he's not surprised that the chief took a medical leave in the wake of pressure on the department

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Ron Thomas, the father of Kelly Thomas, talks with Colleen on Nonstop News. He discusses his reaction to Fullerton's police chief being placed on medical leave.

    The father of a homeless man who died after an altercation with Fullerton police said he is pleased with the appointment of Capt. Kevin Hamilton as acting chief of the department.

    Timeline: The Kelly Thomas Case

    "I have talked with him since Day 1," said Ron Thomas, whose son Kelly, diagnosed as a schizophrenic, died five days after the July 5 beating that involved six officers.

    "He has been nothing but exceptionally good to me," Thomas said of the interim chief. "He has real ownership in this department, and I think it's going to be a lot better off."

    The appointment of Hamilton to interim chief came Wednesday after Chief Michael Sellers was placed on medical leave by his doctor, said Fullerton City Manager Joe Felz.

    Hamilton commands Fullerton's detective division. He has served with the department for 32 years and was set to retire in December until his recent appointment.

    "We also have very important issues we have to deal with in light of the Kelly Thomas incident, and we will work with investigators from the District Attorney's Office and the FBI, who are looking into the incident," said Hamilton in a city news release that announced the chief's medical leave.

    Ron Thomas said the change was an inevitable result of the pressure on the department since the altercation at the Fullerton Transportation Center.

    "It's not surprising -- it's a tool they're using to ease what's really happening here," Thomas said. "I have no doubt (Sellers) is on his way out."

    The city's news release did not indicate a reason for the medical leave. Felz said he was told that Sellers' doctor put him on leave for undisclosed reasons.

    Thomas said he holds Sellers responsible for his son's death.

    "It's up to him to discover, or at least delegate to his lieutenants and sargeants, to find out the behavior of his officers," Thomas said. "So it is his fault."

    Council members Sharon Quirk-Silva and Bruce Whitaker have urged Sellers to resign. Whitaker praised the selection of Hamilton because he did not directly supervise the officers involved in Thomas' arrest.

    Hamilton has worked for the Fullerton Police  Department since 1979. He has experience in almost every division, city officials said. Hamilton, 53, was born and raised in Norwalk and has a bachelor's degree in occupational studies from California State University Long Beach.

    Case Background: Ron Thomas' Fight

    Ron Thomas has been resolute in his quest for answers since the beating. He attended rallies and spoke at an emotional city council meeting Aug. 2.

    Throughout, he has maintained a calm public demeanor. During an interview Wednesday night, Thomas was asked how he stays focused and whether he ever gets angry.

    "I did one time -- last week at the city council meeting when the mayor was lying to everybody," said Thomas. "Other than that, I don't have time for it. I'm going to remain focused, on track and get justice for my son.

    "It's my military background that keeps me so focused."

    Thomas joined the Orange County Sheriff's Department after serving in the Army.

    He said his next step is to to seek a one-on-one meeting with the man who could file charges in the case -- District Attorney Tony Rackauckas. Earlier this week, Rackauckas told NBC4 there is no evidence to show the officers intended to kill Kelly Thomas, but they are still trying to determine if officers used excessive force in his death.

    Residents plan to conduct another rally in support of Ron Thomas on Saturday in Fullerton.

    Officers found Kelly Thomas July 5 at the Fullerton Transportation Center after receiving a report of someone trying to break into vehicles. Officers said he resisted arrest.

    "I'm telling you -- homeless guy was just chillin' and then the cops cames, two cops cars came, two cops," one passenger told a driver on bus surveillance video released earlier this month. "They tried getting him, but he just ran off from them... and they caught him. Pound his face against the curb."

    Thomas, 37, died five days later when he was removed from life support.

    The officers have been put on leave with pay..

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