Before she headed out for the night with friends, Kim Pham had already filed what turned out to be her final blog post for the online news website she was hoping would help earn her a career as a journalist.
Ironically, her story was about Kelly Thomas, the mentally ill homeless man who died after being beaten by police in downtown Fullerton.
The post was published after Pham was fatally beaten.
Just 23 and a recent college graduate, Pham was hit, knocked to the ground and kicked as she waited in line with her friends to get into The Crosby, a restaurant and nightspot in downtown Santa Ana.
An autopsy concluded that she died from complications of blunt-force trauma to the head.
A 25-year-old Santa Ana woman, who was leaving the nightclub with her boyfriend, has been charged with murder in connection with Pham’s death and is being held on $1-million bail
Pham’s blog entry on Kelly Thomas touches on the question of whether police are properly and fully trained to deal with the mentally ill.
“My first reaction to this leads me to wonder if police officers are sufficiently trained to understand conditions of a schizophrenic person and how to deal with this properly. I’m inclined to believe not, as severe aggression, threats and savagely violent battery are completely uncalled for,” she concludes.
The post ends simply: “Kelly Thomas, I hope you truly rest in peace and your family finds solace in all of this.”
In an accompanying story by Greg Dybec, a content manager at Elite Daily, he writes about the collective sorrow at the online publication after hearing that Pham had been killed and how he couldn’t shake the thought that those waiting in line outside the club had done little to come to Pham’s aid.
In a short video of the altercation posted online, some bystanders can be seen trying to film the incident on their cellphones. Others seems to just stare at the altercation.
"It’s discouraging to think that we have become a culture that is more likely to record an incident, such as the beating of Kim Pham, rather than make any effort to prevent the worst possible outcome,” Dybec wrote.
“But after all, we are a generation that chooses to stare emotionlessly through a screen.”
Friends and family members have portrayed Pham as the victim in the incident, saying that she may have drawn the anger of another group at the nightclub by inadvertently stepping in front of a camera as the group posed for a photo.
But the attorney for Vanessa Tapia Zavala said his client is a victim too, and was knocked to the ground during the melee, losing her cellphone in the confusion. Kenneth Reed said that when officers later recovered Zavala’s phone, they may have assumed she was a suspect.
“You day is fine, your life is fine. You have a 5-year-old son, you go out one night on a Friday night with your boyfriend. Then your life is turned upside-down and you find out someone is killed,” said Reed, the woman’s attorney.
Defense attorney Michael Molfetta, who is representing an unidentified client he said is a possible suspect in the case, said Zavala has become the scapegoat in the case, which has drawn widespread media attention and left city leaders scrambling to keep the city’s image from being tarnished.
“Nationally, Ms. Zavala has been vilified and the poor lady that died has basically become a saint,” Molfetta said. “I’m sure she was a lovely woman and had a great future ahead of her, but Ms. Zavala is a good woman too.”
Pham was a recent Chapman University graduate who has been described by friends and acquaintances as a compassionate and gentle woman who championed causes such as breast cancer awareness and helped raise funds following the devastating tsunami in Japan.