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Fullerton considers independent review of homeless man's death

August 9, 2011 |  6:21 am

Fullerton beating case
Fullerton's city manager has proposed an independent examination of the case of a homeless man who died after an altercation with police.

The move comes amid criticism from some that the city is not providing information about what happened to Kelly Thomas.

City officials are now considering asking the head of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department watchdog body to examine the July 5 incident and related policies and procedures, according to sources. Michael Gennaco, head of L.A. County's Office of Independent Review, has been brought in before, to examine the Orange County jails after the death of an inmate.

Photos: Fullerton residents protest death of homeless man

The move comes as Thomas' father on Monday revealed new details about his son's injuries.

Ron Thomas said results of MRI and X-ray scans from the hospital that treated his son after the incident showed that he had two forms of severe brain injury, one caused by a lack of oxygen and the other by blunt force trauma.

Bones in Kelly Thomas' face had also been broken, said his father, who had already released a photo of his son's bloody, swollen face.

Kelly Thomas, 37, died several days after he was confronted by six Fullerton police officers at the local bus depot last month. As officers tried to search the schizophrenic homeless man, a violent altercation ensued that left him in a coma, officials said.

Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas on Monday said he'd seen no evidence so far suggesting that the officers intentionally tried to kill Thomas, but he added that his office is still trying to determine whether excessive force was used.

Rackauckas, speaking for the first time about the incident, said the investigation is in its early stages and that his office has yet to get a determination from the coroner's office on the cause of Thomas' death.

"As far as intentional killing -- whether an officer intended to kill him ... I have not seen any evidence of that in this case," Rackauckas said.

Rackauckas said he had made the investigation a priority for his prosecutors and investigators and was devoting extensive resources to the case. "I am reviewing everything that is being done," he said.
He said he had seen a security video of the incident, which officials have refused to make public, but that he could not discuss its content.

"It is a tragedy this happened," said Rackauckas when asked to characterize the video. "My heart goes out to Mr. Thomas and [his] family members."


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Photo: A crowd gathers in front of the Fullerton police station Sunday to protest the death of Kelly Thomas, a homeless man who died after an altercation with several officers. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times