Parents File Claim Against Fullerton for Son's Death

The parents of Kelly Thomas have filed a claim against the city that alleges their son was a victim of excessive force by Fullerton police.

Kelly Thomas died five days after the July 5 beating at a Fullerton transit station. The family filed a claim Thursday against the city, a precursor to a lawsuit.

Fred and Cathy Thomas filed the claim alleging excessive force. Officers were called to the transit station on a report of someone attempting to break into vehicles.

The claim alleges Kelly Thomas, a homeless man diagnosed with schizophrenia, was on a bench when six officers "used excessive and deadly force'' on Thomas "without justification and acting under color of law.''

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The claim also alleges the officers "in unison severely beat (Thomas) with their fists and with objects and subjected (Thomas) to excessive applications of Taser electricity and to numerous forms of excessive and deadly force under circumstances in which (Thomas) was subdued and restrained and represented no threat of harm to the Fullerton police officers, causing the death (of Thomas).''

As for a dollar figure, the claim states it should be "in an amount that would place it within the unlimited jurisdiction of the Superior Court.''

The family is represented by Mardirossian and Associates Inc. of Los Angeles.

The claim was filed a day before the Fullerton City Council was scheduled to meet in a special session. The council plans to discuss hiring consultant Michael Gennaco to conduct an independent review of the Thomas arrest and the police department.

On Wednesday, Capt. Kevin Hamilton was appointed Interim Police Chief. after Chief Michael Sellers announced he was taking a medical leave.

Hamilton's move up the leadership ladder was applauded by Kelly Thomas's father.

"I have talked with him since Day 1," said Ron Thomas. "He has been nothing but exceptionally good to me. He has real ownership in this department, and I think it's going to be a lot better off."


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Hamilton said he hopes the council approves hiring Gennaco.

"I'm confident it will be a good thing for the city, the department and the investigation of the Kelly Thomas incident,'' Hamilton said.

Gennaco would preside over the internal affairs investigation of the in- custody death of Thomas and review the entire department and offer suggestions on how to improve it, Hamilton said.

Before Gennaco would even get to work or offer any suggestions, Hamilton said he wants his officers to undergo training on how to improve encounters with mentally ill people.

The six officers involved in Thomas' arrest have been placed administrative leave. They were responding to a report of a man trying to break into vehicles at the Metrolink station parking lot, and they struggled with Thomas as they tried to arrest him on suspicion of possessing stolen goods.

Hamilton does not know how long he will hold on to the job. Sellers is on a one-month leave, but it could be extended to a year, Hamilton said.

Councilman Bruce Whitaker said he was told Sellers' doctor put him on medical leave because of high cholesterol levels and stress.

Hamilton said he cannot comment on Sellers' health, but he has talked to him since he went on leave.

"He's doing OK,'' Hamilton said. "My sense is this is a relatively temporary thing until they can figure out some idea what the chief's status is... My wish for him is that he's OK. He's a good man. I really like the chief.''

Whitaker and Councilwoman Sharon Quirk-Silva had called on Sellers to resign before he went on medical leave.

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