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Kelly Thomas case could erode community's trust, D.A. says

May 9, 2012 |  4:41 pm

Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas

Orange County’s top prosecutor said the police beating of Kelly Thomas in Fullerton is the kind of incident that “is very damaging to the community.... It tends to erode the trust that built up over the years.”

An Orange County Superior Court judge on Wednesday ordered two police officers to stand trial for the death of the mentally ill homeless man, who died five days his violent encounter with police last summer.

The centerpiece of the case against the officers is a 33-minute security camera video that shows Thomas –- shirtless and wearing a backpack –- being pummeled with fists, a baton and finally the butt of a stun gun.

VIDEO: Kelly Thomas beating

A coroner’s pathologist testified that Thomas died as a result of chest compression and bleeding from facial injuries.

"This is the hardest thing to do; file cases of this nature against police officers, and I will tell you why. Because we have tremendous law enforcement in Orange County,” Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas said.

“This kind of incident is hard on law enforcement, and it is hard on the community because of what it does to the image of the community," he added.

PHOTOS: Kelly Thomas dies after run-in with Fullerton police

Rackauckas said it was the good police work of Fullerton police and district attorney investigators that led to the criminal filing. The prosecutor said he is prepared if the defense files a dismissal motion or an appeal.

"We needed to bring the charge and we did," he said.

Asked whether Officer Joseph Wolfe -– another police officer at the scene of the July 5 incident -- could face charges, the top prosecutor replied: "We are not done with this case.... We are still considering all the evidence."


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-- Richard Winton

Photo: Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas in court. Credit: Pool photo