On July 5, 2011, a mentally ill homeless man named Kelly Thomas was beaten into a coma at a bus depot in Fullerton, CA. Police officer Manuel Ramos first approached Thomas, known to be nonviolent, after receiving reports of car vandalism in the area. While Ramos ordered Thomas around, another police officer searched through his bags but was unable to find any incriminating evidence. Thomas was slow to comply to Ramos’ orders at first, so the police officer began beating him. He was later joined by more police officers, some of whom clubbed him with a baton while another shocked him with a taser multiple times. Thomas was in a coma before he even arrived at the hospital. The decision was made to remove his life support five days later and Kelly Thomas succumbed to his injuries on July 10, 2011.
A more comprehensive report of the incident that led to Kelly Thomas’ death can be found here: http://www.pixiq.com/article/power-of-social-media. For those who are interested (caution: the footage is graphic), the surveillance camera along with audio from the policemen’s microphone can be seen/heard here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KU0Imk2Bstg.
Beyond the tragedy of the situation, it is frightening to think of the threat that police brutality can pose particularly to the marginalized in our society. While there are certainly many good police officers that work tirelessly to ensure the safety of our population on a regular basis, from time to time incidents such as these do arise. What I think concerns me most about this is how so many of our clients could be potential Kelly Thomases on any given night. Even more scary is the fact that this incident occurred nearly a year ago, and is only beginning to garner wider media attention now. It is times like this that I really appreciate the work of Osha Neumann, an active advocate for the legal rights of the under-served in the East Bay and longtime friend of the Suitcase Clinic.
Any thoughts on the matter?