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Fullerton police void horn-honking citations at Kelly Thomas protest

September 13, 2011 |  1:38 pm

People protest outside the Fullerton Police station

Fullerton police have voided three citations given to motorists who extensively honked their horns in support of the protest last Saturday over Kelly Thomas’ death following a violent altercation with police officers.

As the Orange County district attorney and federal authorities continue to investigate the homeless man's beating on July 5 after he was wrestled to the ground by six Fullerton police officers, protesters have packed downtown on a weekly basis to express their anger at authorities and encouraged motorists to support their cause.

Fullerton Police Sgt. Andrew Goodrich said the department received numerous complaints from residents and businesses in recent weeks and last weekend sought to curtail the excessive honking and began issuing citations.

Goodrich said police spoke to protest organizers on Friday and Saturday about the complaints and asked them to stop encouraging the honking. When they failed to comply, officers cited three drivers.

Those drivers were initially cited for violating a California vehicle code section which state horns can be used "when reasonably necessary to insure safe operation" of a vehicle. In those citations, he said, the drivers leaned on the horns continuously for several blocks. "We are not talking a few seconds of noise here," he said.

Goodrich, however, said the police captain opted to void the first ticket given to a motorist because the individual told the department he did not understand what was acceptable.

"The captain gave him the benefit of the doubt and then chose to void the other two citations," Goodrich said. "We have been trying to be as accommodating as possible to the protesters. We have blocked off streets."

In the aftermath of Saturday’s citations, protesters took to social media questioning whether the officers were targeting department critics, who have gathered near the corner of Commonwealth and South Highland avenues.  

According to witness accounts, officers beat Kelly and shocked him with a Taser multiple times until he was unconscious. He died five days later after being removed from life support.

Last week, Kelly Thomas' father, Ron Thomas, and his attorney Garo Mardirossian released medical records from UC Irvine Medical Center, where Kelly died.

The sheriff-coroner’s office has not determined a cause of death and is awaiting toxicology and other test results, but the medical records released by Thomas show the immediate cause of death was "brain death" due to "head trauma" from the incident.

According to the records Ron Thomas provided, Kelly Thomas suffered brain injuries, a shattered nose, a smashed cheekbone, broken ribs and severe internal bleeding.

District attorney’s officials have said they are awaiting the coroner’s report before concluding their investigation. The FBI is also investigating the incident, and the city of Fullerton has hired an outside consultant to review practices in the Police Department. 


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Photo: People protest outside the Fullerton Police Department in Fullerton on Aug. 6 over the death of Kelly Thomas. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times