L.A. Now

Kelly Thomas verdicts: Police monitoring for death threats

Anger and frustration continued to build a day after an Orange County jury acquitted two former police officers of beating a homeless man to death in a case that generated national debate.

Overnight, protesters swarmed the streets of Fullerton, taunting passing patrol cars and waving signs saying "No More Killer Cops" and "Change 4 Justice."

Police said they began monitoring social media sites after hearing that death threats may have been lodged against the two former patrol officers, who were hurried from the courtroom Monday after the verdicts were read.

“We’re taking necessary precautions that I can’t go into,” said Sgt. Jeff Stuart, spokesman for the Fullerton Police Department. “We’re prepared for any eventuality that may come.”

Stuart said he wasn’t aware of any specific threat made against police officers in the college town.

The verdicts, which came after only hours of deliberations, were met anger by family members and supporters of Kelly Thomas, a schizophrenic homeless man who died after being beaten by police in a bustling transportation depot in 2011.

A video of the violent altercation was played repeatedly during the trial, with prosecutors and defense attorneys reaching starkly different conclusions on what it showed -- a confused homeless man being pummeled into unconsciousness or a belligerent street figure who fought so fiercely that officers repeatedly had to call for backup.

Protesters reacted to the verdicts by marching outside the courthouse and then roving the streets in downtown Fullerton.

Wielding signs that read “We’re not against police. We are against police brutality” and “Criminal cops need to be fired” protesters walked from the spot where Thomas was killed – now known locally as “Kelly’s corner" -- to the Fullerton Police Department. A police cruiser driving by elicited the ire of many of them.

“We’re coming for you,” one man shouted.

“Now you be afraid of us,” shouted another protester.

Stuart said police understand that some people are angry and frustrated.

“We understand there’s a wide range of emotions,” Stuart said. “We respect people’s right to express their opinion. We just ask they do so respectfully.”


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