At a rally in front of the Fullerton Police Department Saturday calling for the police chief’s resignation, the father of the 37-year-old schizophrenic man who was beaten by police and died said he wanted to see stiff penalties for those involved.
“What I want to see done is the primary guy that was beating my son in the back of the head with a Taser, because this was indeed a hate crime against the homeless and mentally ill, needs to be convicted of a brutal murder with special circumstances,” said Ron Thomas. “I want him to get the death penalty and I’ll pull the switch.”
More than 500 people joined Thomas at the rally many shouting “Justice for Kelly! Jail Killer Cops!” in response to the beating and death of a Kelly Thomas who allegedly fought with officers July 5.
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Andy Anderson, a Fullerton resident who helped organize the protest, said they wanted to see the policemen involved lose their jobs.
“The main goal is to get Chief Sellers to step down,” he said. “We are going to show him through unity and all the people here that we don’t want him here anymore. The ultimate goal is prosecution for the 6 officers involved.”
Anderson said Kelly was a fixture in the community and that the beating more evidence of what he described as an overly aggressive police force.
“We are trying to keep his mental illness really out of it,” said Anderson about Kelly’s medical condition. “What it comes down to is, he was a schizophrenic yeah, he was a homeless guy, but six police officers beat him to death and that is really the story here and I think sometimes the mental illness thing is putting a shroud over what actually happened.”
He said in addition to the chief stepping down he wants to see the desk officer who watched the video during the beating lose his job and the six officers lose their jobs, pension and serve jail time, “just like any other citizen would.”
A Fullerton police lieutenant, who refused to give his name, said there have been no arrests and that crowd has not been unruly. He also said there has been no special police deployment for the protest.
“It's just our regular number of officers that are serving the city today,” he said. “Nothing's going on. That's all I have to say. We're (the police department) not making any statements about this (protest).”
Members of the coalition of Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, or ANSWER, and mental health advocates joined the parents of Kelly Thomas in the demonstration.
Six officers believed to be involved in Thomas' arrest were publicly identified by a blogger, and that reportedly caused the wife and children of one of the officers to move to a hotel after the family received a death threat.
Kelly Thomas was allegedly suspected of trying to break into cars at the Fullerton transit center. He was in a coma and died in a hospital five days after the arrest. His father, a former sheriff's deputy, made public an image of his bloodied and bruised son in a hospital bed, with at least one black eye, a big cut on his forehead and what appeared to be broken nose.
Surveillance video shows part of the arrest, but authorities say they will not make it public. The FBI is monitoring the investigation and will hand up its findings to the Justice Department.
A candlelight vigil is planned for Saturday night at 8 p.m. at Fullerton City Hall.