Kelly Thomas verdict: No justice for beaten homeless man, readers fume

In July 2011, Kelly Thomas -- a mentally ill homeless man -- was beaten unconscious by Fullerton police officers and later died from his injuries. Recordings of the beating show Thomas repeatedly begging for his life, even saying, “Dad, help me.”

On Monday, two of those men -- now former officers -- who beat the schizophrenic Thomas unconscious were found not guilty on all charges.

Readers are outraged.

Dozens have sent us their reactions to the verdict; nearly all have expressed sadness, anger and incredulity. Some said this tragedy speaks to how important it is for the mentally ill to receive treatment. A few readers said this brought back memories of the Rodney King beating. One defended the former officers.

Here is a selection of the letters responding to the Thomas verdict that The Times has received so far. Some of the letters here may appear in print this week.

Inglewood resident Barbara Hobbs remembers a past police beating trial:


“Tears welled in my eyes as I began to respond to the acquittals of the ex-officers who beat a mentally ill homeless man.

“That being said, as an African American, I can sympathize with Kelley’s grieving parents and the protesters, as this tragic verdict reminds me of the time that four Los Angeles cops were acquitted in 1992 after having severely beaten Rodney King.”

Marianne Finch of Huntington Beach wonders about police training:

“There is a statement in one of The Times’ articles that just makes my blood run cold: ‘They did what they were trained to do.’

“If that is really what they are trained to do, then I’m very afraid.”

Chet Chebegia of Long Beach says this served a valuable purpose:

“Lawyer John Barnett, the defense attorney for one of the ex-officers, said that police ‘fear the courts.’ He’s right, but for the wrong reasons.

“Police had better fear the courts because that’s what we have in this country: law, order, justice and trial by jury for all. We all fear the courts, and rightly so. This trial was very necessary, no matter the outcome.

“If we didn’t have the courts, many more lives would be at risk. Police officers have a very difficult job, as everyone knows, but if we ignore possible abuse, let things slide under the carpet or take a soft-accountability approach, then we have no progress.

“This case, this trial, this tragic situation will serve to benefit police training, oversight and responsibility, and it will improve the policing in our communities. Questions always have to be asked.”

Los Angeles resident Terry Snyder says justice wasn’t served:

“I understand now why justice wears a blindfold. It’s so we can’t see the tears she sheds after the most recent miscarriage in Fullerton.”

Fran Sasaki of Dana Point expresses devastation:
“How can this verdict be? Did the jurors understand schizophrenia? Were they made aware of the manifestations of a person afflicted with schizophrenia who doesn’t take his medication?

“The police knew Thomas. I’m devastated. This is not justice.”


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