Other Officers in Kelly Thomas Case Could Still Face Charges - NBC Southern California

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

Other Officers in Kelly Thomas Case Could Still Face Charges

Experts say it's not a question of whether they were present



    Other Fullerton Officers Could Face Charges

    Four Fullerton police officers, involved in the Kelly Thomas beating, could still face charges according to a legal expert. (Published Thursday, Sept. 22, 2011)

    Four other Fullerton police officers are not facing charges in connection with the beating that led to the death of Kelly Thomas.  But a legal expert believes that could change.

    Criminal Law Professor, Martin Pritikin, says it is not a question of whether the officers were present while Thomas was being beaten, but whether the uncharged police officers violated his civil rights by using more force than necessary. 

    More: Kelly Thomas Timeline | Defense Speaks Out

    "The Constitution protects people from being subjected to excessive force when they are stopped and detained," said Pritikin.

    Kenton Hampton has been on the force just five years.  He is one of the four officers who was at the Fullerton bus terminal the night Thomas was beaten.  Hampton is being sued by Veth Mam who says the 41 year old officer lied about what happened the night Man shot cell phone video of his friend getting arrested.  Mam was later acquitted of assault and battery. 

    "They grabbed me, they slammed me and I was scared," said Mam.

    The other three officers have been working for Fullerton P.D. longer.  Officer Joseph Wolfe has been on the force 12 years.  Sergeant Kevin Craig has been working in Fullerton 15 years and Corporal James Blatney has been with the department 18 years.

    All four men remain on paid leave as the FBI looks into whether any federal laws have been broken. 

    "I think the FBI will show that his civil rights were violated and they'll be accountable for that," said Ron Thomas, the father of Kelly Thomas.

    The district attorney says he cannot prove the four officers knew they were walking into a scenario that caused Thomas to fear for his life. 

    He contends the four did not know they were backing up another officer who had already allegedly stepped over the line. 

    "I don't think it shows any unlawful conduct had occurred prior to their arrival," said Orange County District Attorney, Tony Rackauckas.

    But Pritikin says that doesn't mean the officers are out of the legal woods yet. 

    "When you're involved in an incident there is some concern that you will be held legally liable they won't walk away clear," said  Pritikin.


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