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

Newly Released Video Raises Questions in Kelly Thomas Case

Thomas died following an altercation with Fullerton police officers in July 2011

By Vikki Vargas and Neil Costes
|  Friday, Mar 1, 2013  |  Updated 9:51 AM PDT
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Attorneys who represent an Orange County bar have released surveillance video from the night Kelly Thomas was beaten. The video shows him walking through a parking lot, just minutes before he was fatally beaten in 2011. The attorneys released the video as part of their defense against a wrongful-termination lawsuit from a former employee. Vikki Vargas reports from Fullerton for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Feb. 28, 2013.

Vikki Vargas

Attorneys who represent an Orange County bar have released surveillance video from the night Kelly Thomas was beaten. The video shows him walking through a parking lot, just minutes before he was fatally beaten in 2011. The attorneys released the video as part of their defense against a wrongful-termination lawsuit from a former employee. Vikki Vargas reports from Fullerton for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Feb. 28, 2013.

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Newly released video shows Kelly Thomas may have been behaving differently than previous reports indicated prior to his fatal beating in 2011.

Attorneys who represent an Orange County bar on Thursday released the surveillance video from the night Thomas, a mentally ill homeless man, was involved in a fatal confrontation with Fullerton police officers in 2011. He died days later.

In addition to the surveillance video, the attorneys released a taped deposition from a former bouncer, as they try to defend against a wrongful-termination lawsuit.

In the deposition video from October 2012, Michael Reeves testified he heard the manager of The Slidebar call police to report Thomas was breaking into cars.

"She was standing next to me, and we were both looking at the same vantage point, Kelly Thomas, and that's why I believe it to be a false police report," Reeves said in the deposition video.

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Attorneys for The Slidebar say surveillance video shows the manager walking away from Reeves. The attorneys contend Reeves could not have heard the phone call.

"His name is Kelly, roaming the parking lot, looking in cars, pulling on handles again," the manager said, in the phone call made to police.

The surveillance video shows Thomas, shirtless, wandering through the parking lot, just minutes before the beating.

His father, Ron Thomas, says the video does not show his son pulling on any car handles. He believes the new video proves his son was not a thief.

"Even if he was burglarizing, even if he had car stereos in his hand, it has nothing to do with the officers' conduct," Ron Thomas said.

The Orange County District Attorney's Office told NBC4 the release of the new video will not affect the criminal case against the Fullerton police officers.

The video is now part of the bar's defense in a $4 million lawsuit filed by Reeves.

The bar's owner, Jeremy Popoff, says allegations that he had a policy to harass the homeless are untrue.

"The damage has been done to my business and my reputation, so we're not dropping it now," Popoff said.

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