Six Fullerton cops, responding to a phone call alleging that someone in the downtown area might be breaking into cars, approached a 130-pound homeless man named Kelly Thomas, grabbed his backpack and, according to eyewitnesses, began Tasering him and
beating him into a pulp. He died a few days later at a local hospital.
According to eyewitnesses, Thomas, although schizophrenic, did nothing to warrant arrest, let alone a savage beating. He was a local fixture around the bar scene, a gentle figure who bummed cigarettes and slept in the park. Videos made by bystanders showed pure aggression on the part of the cops, while locals expressed horror and Thomas cried out for his dad as he was being beaten.
In my column about this apparent act of police thuggery, I quoted Jim Ewert, general counsel of the California Newspaper Publishers Association, who calls California a “secret police state.” Some readers no doubt find this description to be too much for their tender sensibilities. So I want to recount some of the ways the authorities have behaved during and after the incident, and then ask this question: Does this typical behavior better reflect the policies of a free society or a police state?