Beaten to Death

“Dad! Dad!” — his son’s last words as he was beaten to death by Fullerton police — will echo in his head for the rest of his life, the father of mentally ill transient Kelly Thomas told the Fullerton City Council Tuesday night.

Officers used tasers and other force to subdue Thomas on July 5, and he died of his injuries five days later. The beating sparked an outcry that led to an overflow crowd of at least 200 that jammed the City Council chambers, filled the lobby and spilled into a library next-door.

Eight television crews recorded the emotional, sometimes angry, stream of speakers, who repeatedly demanded the resignation of Police Chief Michael Sellers, improved training of officers, upgraded police procedures, a change in police attitudes toward the public and better treatment of the homeless mentally ill.

Sellers and the council also were criticized for not immediately putting the six officers involved on leave.

Ron Thomas, father of 37-year-old Kelly Thomas, urged the council to act on a list of issues related to his son’s death. Both the district attorney’s office and the FBI are investigating what happened.

“What was the city trying to settle for” when a lawyer for Fullerton offered the family $900,000 a few weeks ago, asked Thomas. He said the lawyer never specified what was being settled. Thomas rejected the settlement.

He also wants the 911 tapes and a police video of the conflict made public.

The meeting began with City Attorney Richard D. Jones explaining to the audience that the council can’t offer opinions on what happened because they ultimately may have to make the final decisions on possible discipline of the six officers.

“I’m just wondering where my son’s rights went as a citizen,” said Thomas. “If I went out and committed a crime … the 911 tapes would have been released that day.”

He and others urged the council to make public the video of officers subduing his son. The DA’s office has said the video can’t be made public because it is part of the investigation and they don’t want potential witnesses to confuse what that saw with what they might see on the video.

He asked whether the City Council had seen the video, and Councilwoman Sharon Quirk Silva replied “no.”

Thomas urged the council members to listen to the recordings made by bystanders. “They’re the last words of his life: ‘Dad! Dad!’ I want you to hear that the rest of your life like I will.”

He offered to provide recordings of his son’s cries if council members hadn’t already heard them.

And he chided the entire council, particularly Mayor Richard Jones, for not contacting the family after his son’s death.

“Do the right thing, Mr. Mayor,” he said. “Give me a phone call sometime.”

Councilwoman Sharon Quirk Silva, after listening to more than three hours of speakers, said the council should put on the agenda policies on how the homeless are treated and potential changes in police training. She said she has a brother who has mental health and homelessness issues.

Mayor Jones said the city attorney will contact the DA Wednesday to ask whether more information can be released.

“We’re unhappy that this has happened,” the mayor said, but added he’s “been told” to “restrain my feelings” during the investigations.