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Video shows parts of deadly Fullerton police incident, D.A. says

August 4, 2011 |  8:16 am

Fullerton homeless man's memorialOrange County prosecutors said they have reviewed a videotape that shows parts of a deadly altercation between homeless man Kelly Thomas and Fullerton police.

The Orange County district attorney has more than two dozen investigators working on the case. Officials have already interviewed 80 witnesses and plan to interview more than 100 people.

“You understand why the public is upset. We are doing the investigation as quickly as possible. We are waiting for the toxicology and the cause of death,” said Susan Kang Schroeder, the district attorney’s chief of staff. “The D.A. has made it very clear. This is a priority. We have two dozen investigators involved in the investigations.... It is such an important case. The public wants the answers as soon as possible but the public does not want a rush to judgment."

Kang Schroeder said the facts will either come out at trial or in a detailed report issued by the district attorney’s office.

Kang Schroeder said investigators possess a video of much of the incident.

“The camera at the bus depot was controlled by Fullerton police. It shows certain things but [does] not completely show everything" that happened.  But she said they won’t make it public. “The reason why we are not releasing the video is we want to make sure that any witnesses who come forward testify to what [they] saw in person, not what they saw in the media.”

Kang Schroeder added: “Your heart goes out to family. You hear the crying, Dad, Dad ... but our office has a very important job to do and we will apply the applicable laws objectively.”

At Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, hundreds of angry citizens jammed into the overflowing council chambers, criticizing police for the death of Thomas, 37, and demanding that the city explain what happened.

In response to the increasing chorus of public criticism, the Police Department issued a statement Wednesday saying only: "This was tragic for our community. We are in the midst of an investigation."

Although the Police Department remained largely silent, the attorney for the six officers spoke out in their defense.

Michael D. Schwartz said Thomas was combative with officers. He said that contrary to the statements of at least one witness, the officers did not use a flashlight as a weapon. Schwartz also said there was "no excessive use" of a Taser by the officer on Thomas -- rebuffing claims made by several witnesses.

One Fullerton City Council member called for the police chief's resignation Wednesday, criticizing the Police Department for refusing to answer questions in the case.

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-- Richard Winton in Los Angeles and Abby Sewell in Fullerton

Photo: Passers-by stop to read notes left at a sidewalk memorial for Kelly Thomas, 37, a homeless schizophrenic man who died five days after an altercation with Fullerton police July 5 near the bus station. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

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