Autopsy Results in Fullerton Police Beating Face Potential Delays

Autopsy results for Kelly Thomas, who died a July 5 after being beaten by Fullerton police, may not be final for another four or five weeks while investigators wait for results of toxicology tests, a spokesman for the county coroner said Friday.

Even then, the cause of Thomas’ death would not be made public right away if law enforcement officials ask for a delay to complete their investigation, said Orange County sheriff’s spokesman Jim Amormino. The coroner’s office is part of the Sheriff’s Department.

“It’s going to be a while,” Amormino said, “a couple of months to several months. It could be quite a while.”

Thomas, a 37-year-old mentally ill drifter, was beaten into a coma July 5 during an altercation with six Fullerton police officers. He died July 10.

A preliminary autopsy completed July 12 was inconclusive about exactly what caused Thomas’ death, according to a story in the Orange County Register.

Toxicology tests to determine what, if any, drugs or alcohol were in Thomas’ system and may have contributed to his death can take up to two months to complete, said Amormino.

He said coroner’s officials also will be conferring with the District Attorney’s Office and the Fullerton Police Department, “all as part of the total investigation.”

Kelly Thomas’ father, Ron Thomas, said he wants the autopsy “to be extremely thorough, and I want it to be right. Obviously, I want those guys [who beat Kelly Thomas] to go away to prison, but it has to be done right.”

Thomas didn’t have an immediate comment on the possibility that release of the final report might be delayed should law enforcement requests more time for investigation.

In Los Angeles County, where the coroner’s office is a county department independent of both the sheriff and the district attorney, toxicology tests typically take six to eight weeks, said spokesman Craig Harvey.

He said law enforcement agencies can place a “security hold” on autopsy results to prevent their disclosure if they submit a written request to the coroner.

Those types of holds generally last up to 90 days, he said.

In the Thomas case, both the Orange County district attorney and the FBI are conducting investigations.