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Homeless man killed in Fullerton police brawl; witnesses sought

July 28, 2011 |  9:34 am

Fullerton police brawl Investigators are seeking witnesses to a brawl involving Fullerton police that led to the death of a homeless man.

Kelly Thomas, 37, became involved in an altercation with officers (links to video that contains strong language) at the Fullerton bus depot July 5 that left him in critical condition on life-support.

He died five days later at the UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange.

Responding to reports of someone breaking into cars, officers had confronted Thomas, a transient well-known to merchants and officers in downtown Fullerton.

The Orange County Register reported that Thomas, who suffered from schizophrenia, began to struggle as officers tried to search him and that Thomas sustained head and neck injuries.

Thomas’ father, a retired Orange County sheriff’s deputy, has asserted that officers used excessive force to subdue his son, who was unarmed, slight and of medium height.

After seeing his son's injuries and talking with witnesses, Thomas told the Register his son "was brutally beaten to death."

"When I first walked into the hospital, I looked at what his mother described as my son ... I didn't recognize him," Thomas said. "This is cold-blooded, aggravated murder."

Thomas, citing witnesses, said officers hit his son with the butts of flashlights even after he stopped moving.

He said his son was probably off his medication and didn't understand officers' commands.

A spokesman for the Orange County Coroner's office declined to discuss the case but said an autopsy of Thomas had been completed and the results forwarded to investigators.

Witnesses are asked to call Stan Berry, an investigator with the Orange County district attorney’s office, at (714) 347-8813.

A department spokeswoman declined to release details about the case pending the completion of its investigation.


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-- Howard Blume

Photo: Kelly Thomas. Credit: KTLA-TV.