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

Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed in Kelly Thomas Police Beating Case

Ron Thomas announces the filing of a lawsuit against Fullerton police, marking the one-year anniversary of the death of his son.

By Caroline Tan
|  Friday, Jul 6, 2012  |  Updated 9:59 AM PDT
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Ron Thomas, the father of the mentally ill homeless man who died after being beaten by Fullerton police on July 5, 2011, filed a wrongful death lawsuit Thursday on the one year anniversary of Kelly Thomas' altercation with police. Conan Nolan reports from the Mid-Wilshire District for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on July 5, 2012.

Conan Nolan

Ron Thomas, the father of the mentally ill homeless man who died after being beaten by Fullerton police on July 5, 2011, filed a wrongful death lawsuit Thursday on the one year anniversary of Kelly Thomas' altercation with police. Conan Nolan reports from the Mid-Wilshire District for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on July 5, 2012.

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The father of Kelly Thomas, whose son suffered fatal injuries one year ago at the hands of Fullerton police, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Fullerton.

Ron Thomas announced the lawsuit during a Thursday afternoon press conference. During the conference, he reaffirmed his commitment to “instituting change” within the city. The announcement came during the one-year anniversary of Kelly Thomas' beating.

The Kelly Thomas Case

Kelly Thomas, 37, was beaten into a coma at a Fullerton bus center by Fullerton police officers who were responding to a call about car break-ins.

"Time heals all wounds -- that's the saying. But right now it hasn't healed a thing for me," Ron Thomas told City News Service. "It's like it just happened for me."

A year later, Ron Thomas visited the location of the beating.

"I was 250 feet away from where it all happened. They start playing that, 'Dad, Dad, they're killing me,' and I'm right there where he was screaming and crying, and I just broke apart," Thomas told CNS.

The complaint alleges assault and battery, negligence, wrongful death, and civil rights violations. It was filed Thursday in Orange County Superior Court. It names the city, its police department and officers allegedly involved in the beating. It does not specify a dollar amount.

“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 court papers note.

“With the knowledge that their actions are not scrutinized, Fullerton officers are thereby encouraged to behave with impunity and to act without regard to protecting citizens’ rights.”

Fullerton police did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Kelly Thomas' death led to the early retirement of the Fullerton police chief, a successful recall effort against three Fullerton city councilmen and the filing of criminal charges against two Fullerton police officers.

It also prompted heated discussions throughout the United States about the relationship between police officers and the mentally ill.

The case sparked protests outside the Fullerton Police Department and City Hall, condemning the officers' actions. Three Fullerton city councilmen were recalled on during the June 5 election as a result of what some felt were "their lack of leadership" in the case.

Then-Fullerton Police Chief Michael Sellers left his post on Feb. 3, following a six-month medical leave amid calls for his resignation.

Several events are planned this week to honor Kelly Thomas, including concerts and an art gallery exhibition.

Mourners also plan to gather at 8 p.m. Thursday at the Fullerton Transportation Center.

A benefit concert, headlined by the Fullerton punk band the Adolescents, will be held Saturday.

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