The Fullerton Police Department Are the Bullies In Blue

Long before officers beat Kelly Thomas to death, the city's cops ran roughshod over anyone and everyone

Nordell couldn't believe it. "That was stunning," she says, "stunning that the people under him had not reported it."

Thanks to Nordell's persistence, everything was hammered out. At a council meeting this October, a year after the raid, Hamilton issued not only a humble apology to the Nordells, but also a department directive on how to avoid similar incidents in the future.

*     *     *

Davis Barber/OC Weekly file photo
Ron Thomas, father of Kelly, has been at every city council meeting since Fullerton police officers beat his son to death.  He usually sits near the front so he can see every council member—and they can see him.
Miguel Vasconcellos
Ron Thomas, father of Kelly, has been at every city council meeting since Fullerton police officers beat his son to death. He usually sits near the front so he can see every council member—and they can see him.

On July 6, the day after the Kelly Thomas beating, Fullerton City Councilman Bruce Whitaker got a phone call from city manager Joe Felz, who relayed information from Sellers: Something bad had happened. In trying to "bring [a suspect] under control," the police had injured a man—but there were several other factors Whitaker needed to know. Thomas had "bolted" from the officers and "fought really viciously," leaving a couple of officers with "fairly significant" injuries. Police suspected Thomas was high on drugs "because he just fought with almost superhuman strength," Felz told Whitaker. And there was probable cause for the detainment: Thomas stole mail out of multiple mailboxes.

The only problem, though, was that information was full of lies: Thomas wasn't high, he didn't steal any mail, he put up almost no fight, and none of the officers was seriously injured. After he found that out, Whitaker made public claims of a deliberate police cover-up. "I think a certain level of wishful thinking that this would just go away may have led to this cover-up of a sort, or at least some sort of a plan that was agreed to, that even despite all physical evidence that it wasn't working, they just adhered to it," he says. "They've really stuck to that plan."

Whitaker already had a suspicion something was amiss with the Fullerton police. In April, 52-year-old Dean Francis Gochenour was found hanged in his jail cell. The Los Angeles Times quoted Captain Tim Kandler as saying there were "no apparent suspicious circumstances" in Gochenour's death. But Whitaker had heard through the grapevine that the officer who booked the inmate had had some type of exchange with the inmate. Whitaker also heard that as soon as the arresting officer found out Gochenour had hanged himself, he took his digital audio recorder off (which all Fullerton police officers wear on their belts, and are supposed to activate before any interaction with the public) and smashed it repeatedly against a stone wall to destroy its memory. Whitaker says he was "troubled greatly" by the allegations, adding that Felz eventually confirmed there was  "something unusual" and that someone had destroyed the voice recorder.

He asked for a tour of the city jail, which wasn't granted for months, not until Hamilton took over as interim chief in mid-August. Whitaker has asked the police department for any videotape that might show the area where Gochenour supposedly hanged himself, but, he says, requests have been "stonewalled." Fullerton Police Department spokesperson Andrew Goodrich says there's little anyone can say about the allegations because the investigation is ongoing, but added that the first person who found Gochenour definitely didn't destroy his recorder.

Although he asked for his resignation, Whitaker says, he thinks the "seeds of what we're dealing with now were planted before Sellers came along." And the paramilitary tactics McKinley instituted certainly haven't disappeared. This summer, Whitaker says he got a call from a flabbergasted friend, who told him she saw about two dozen officers pour out of their cars and ransack a baby shower in Lemon Park. The 5-acre, 65-year-old park is known for its spray pool for children and 12 Chicano murals, many painted in the 1970s with the blessing of the Fullerton Police Department. The officers made the crowd, mainly black and Latino men, lay face-forward "in the grass and dirt, with shotguns held at their backs for 45 minutes," Whitaker says. The officers said they were responding to a call that someone in the area had a weapon. The heavily armed hullabaloo resulted in a single arrest: one person on a warrant for a moving violation. Goodrich defends the officers' actions, saying the department takes allegations of someone having a gun very seriously and that Lemon Park is a "common place for gang activity."

By then, the department was in siege mentality after Thomas' death. But even weeks after the killing, the Fullerton Police Department continued its sketchy behavior. At a bus stop, a local attorney approached Ron Thomas, Kelly's father, to tell him he felt detectives had prodded him to pin wrongdoing on his son. Police found papers from the man's firm in Thomas' backpack, so they contacted him. The attorney told them he had thrown the papers away in a trashcan on a public sidewalk, meaning Kelly had every right to pick them up. Goodrich says a detective did call to ask about the letter in Thomas' possession, but, he contends, it was just a typical interview and there was no coaxing involved.

In the months since then, Ron's disbelief at such a digression by police officers has almost entirely disappeared. Now, he says, he realizes it was only a matter of time until the department's culture of abuse and tendency to "brutalize into submission" escalated to murder. Had he been less vocal and less active in finding other victims, he thinks the murder would have been swept under the rug. "They thought he was going to be a John Doe in the morgue," Ron says. "Or maybe they thought, 'We don't give a shit if he's got a family; we get away with everything that we do.'"

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
41 comments
Kp
Kp

So Chief Sellers oversees a force that murders citizens, but because one of those murdered citizens became news Sellers therefore had to go on 'Paid Medical Leave'. Probably all the stress of trying to cover things up.

Hopefully the citizens get some form of paid medical leave when they are stressed over seeing friends and relatives beaten and shot and electrocuted and killed...

Hdcenterprises
Hdcenterprises

This story really exposes the true problems plaguing America today. The continual erosion of the constitution allows for the escelation of violence among those hired to "protect and serve"

Garibaldi
Garibaldi

Officer Hampton needs to be disciplined ASAP! File a wrongful arrest lawsuit AND for police misconduct when dudes head got slammed into the wall.

Soho_d J
Soho_d J

Fuck all corrupt American police.

Lisa Simeone
Lisa Simeone

"Absolute power corrupts absolutely." It always has and it always will. Yet people don't want to admit it when it comes to the police (and other so-called authority figures like the TSA).

Cops protect their own. And they get away with this sh*t because they're not called to account. Bravo to Fullerton for standing up to them.

But this kind of abuse is going on all over the country; it's just that it's usually directed against the poor, the weak, the disenfranchised, those people whom society deems unworthy. That's why the "solid middle class" can turn a blind eye to it. Sad doesn't even begin to describe it.

Joe Zuckersuck
Joe Zuckersuck

You should realize that it's not like Fullerton's cops are unique. Just the other day they shot some kid in the head claiming he was holding what looked like a gun, but all the other witnesses said he dropped the obvious toy before they even approached him. That was in LA county. The only difference is in Fullerton, the people are standing up and demanding justice, they're not just standing idly by and letting cops break the law and abuse their power without a fight. Fullerton should be proud, not shamed. Any other city that stands by and lets stuff like that happen are the ones who should be shameful.

Zenbuddha77
Zenbuddha77

I "liked" your comment, Joe, but two cops in my community awhile back killed from a distance a mentally ill man who was waving a long kitchen knife on the Court House lawn. With all their gun training you think they could have just shot to wound him. Or from what I heard from a mental health professional who knew the mentally ill man offered him a cup of coffee or a cigarette for the knife which the man in all probability would have gladly traded the knife for.

The cops were totally exonerated with out so much as a whisper of protest from the community. At the very least I think both of them should have been fired for being gun happy. Not sure what you expect me to do. I have some mental health issues myself and was confined to a psych ward for a week after writing an extremely insulting and NON threatening email to one of our local "liberal" politicians who is politically correct to the point of doing nothing regarding NY's antiquated drug laws and the prison system which, like most prison systems, is notorious for being unfair to blacks and the poor and minor drug offenders who make up the majority of that prison population.

Also regarding the erosion of free speech. I had an extremely satirical site that vilified virtually every elected and recognized local to State to National to International leaders for allowing the use of depleted uranium. It was deleted off of Wordpress, which has and still has thousands of porn sites. Sure we live in a fascist society but the worst form of Fascism wont come from the extreme right or the extreme left it will come...from the "politically correct".

Mkmalikking
Mkmalikking

My condolences to the Thomas family. I am truly sorry for your lost, for I was almost murdered in the same fashion, under the same color of authority, in the same Orange County just four months prior.

On March 9, 2011 several Police brutally ordered a K-9 to attack an unarmed, California Registered (RN) and Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN). The California Highway Patrol in Orange County then attempted to cover up the incident.

Malik King, a reportedly “LVN since the age of nineteen” and California Registered Nurse since twenty three years of age, is said to have initially attempted to steal a car. Later it was found he was the owner of that Mercedes. What ensued next on the part of several officers goes well beyond the bounds of simply trying to subdue their suspect.

The several police officers ordered a police K-9 to attack him while he was still fastened in his seat-belt, tasered multiple times while the K-9 attack continued for over one minute and thirty seconds, then hand cuffed, slammed to the ground, hog tied, beat and kicked in the head until unconscious. He was then taken to jail, accused of multiple felonies, and had to pay $50,000 for bail.

Despite witnesses and the clear brutality of the beating, tasering, and ordered dog attack, California Highway patrol allowed several officers to remain active and attempted a cover-up.

Violations of federal law occur when it can be shown that the force used was willfully “unreasonable” or “excessive”. By signing this petition you agree that “unreasonable” or “excessive force” was used on Malik A. King on March 9, 2011 in California Orange County.

The beating of Mr. King is sickening and disturbing. The police involved in the beating and cover up must be brought to justice. Tell Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas to thoroughly investigate and prosecute the officers involved in the brutality of Malik A. King,LVN,RN.

http://www.thepetitionsite.com...

DonWill58
DonWill58

The FPD sounds just like the HBPD!!

dent harwell
dent harwell

Growing up west of Orangethorp between Harbor and Euclid I went to Woodcrest Elementry, then Nicolas middle school and Fullerton High School was such a great time. I can't tell you how many good times we had, To think the town has become a place of fear from the police chills my heart. Fullerton for me was wonderful, however the time I was there I never had problems with the police. I rode my bike all over town without any problems. Just about every week we went to Hill Crest Park in the summer and had loads of fun. I pains me to think the wonderful city I spent my young life in has turned to such an awful place when it comes to the police. I use to go to the park and the boys club down the street from the police station and on my return home I would stop in the police station and visit the officers. They were always kind to me at that time in the early 60s.

I think it is important to remember these crooked cops are nothing more than an organised gang of thugs, who are no different than any other bad gang. The ones who get away with all of the crap are usually bullies within their own department. It is time for the decent officers to make a stand too. The officers need to police their own and it is up to them to start setting an example on what to do with bad cops. It may not be popular, but it is what is right. For all of the low life crooked cops who pull these kind of tactics there needs to be officers ready and willing to screw a gun into one of the crooked cops ears who break the law and arrest them just like they would any other crook.

The one thing about the people who are in charge is, they know what is going on and they need to be willing to do the same or get the hell out of the way and let someone who cares about their community do the job. Too many good officers leave the profession because they do not feel like dealing with these problems when it is hard enough doing the job they were hired for in the first place. At some point people will get tired of this crap and will take on the problem them self. Look around you, people are killing cops everywhere because that is the only way citizens feel they can get rid of the bad apples. I will never forget the beautiful old buildings with the red tile roofs that had Christmas decorations up and down the street starting with the police Department. I wish you all luck getting your town back from the police. Happy Holidays!

SelinaaWozz
SelinaaWozz

Another restaurant cliaimed to use fresh mozz arella cheese,where it's dishes were actually made with economy cheddar.the "fresh pasta"advertieshed on another meau tumed out to be frozen.--Agedate. c0m --a nice and free place for younger women and older men,or older women and younger men,to interact with each other.

SelinaaWozz
SelinaaWozz

Another restaurant cliaimed to use fresh mozz arella cheese,where it's dishes were actually made with economy cheddar.the "fresh pasta"advertieshed on another meau tumed out to be frozen.--Agedate. c0m --a nice and free place for younger women and older men,or older women and younger men,to interact with each other.

SelinaaWozz
SelinaaWozz

Another restaurant cliaimed to use fresh mozz arella cheese,where it's dishes were actually made with economy cheddar.the "fresh pasta"advertieshed on another meau tumed out to be frozen.--Agedate. c0m --a nice and free place for younger women and older men,or older women and younger men,to interact with each other.

SelinaaWozz
SelinaaWozz

Another restaurant cliaimed to use fresh mozz arella cheese,where it's dishes were actually made with economy cheddar.the "fresh pasta"advertieshed on another meau tumed out to be frozen.--Agedate. c0m --a nice and free place for younger women and older men,or older women and younger men,to interact with each other.

dent harwell
dent harwell

What kind of lunatic are you? What does cheese and dating have to do with this article? Plus you posted it four times. Go and peddle you moronic nonsense elsewhere!

CSB
CSB

why can't/don't they just fire the ones who are obviously breaking the rules? like the smashing of the audio device? or turning them off repeatedly? or not calling a woman officer to pat down a female? they don't reinforce anything at all, and less than 2 weeks of leave isn't going to change anything. it'd be so much more simple if they just fired the ones who are obviously doing things wrong and inhumanely.

Joseph Murphy
Joseph Murphy

These supposed LEOs are simply rabid dogs, and everyone knows that rabid dogs need to be put down as their is no cure for their disease.

Abc123
Abc123

fuck that hampton character , and i can name at least a dozen more that are just like him

Mary Jane Doe
Mary Jane Doe

I used to trust the police until an Orange PD officer responded after I was the victim of a violent crime. The responding officer did not do his job, broke the law and then lied about it. To the department's credit the responding officer was investigated and my case was picked up and handled very professionally by other officers in the department. However, the damage was already done by the responding officer and the case was not prosecuted to extent that it should have been because of his actions. (The OCDA's actions are another story. Don't get me started.) And having a sworn police officer call my home at nine pm, then proceed to harrass me and outright lie was one of the scariest things I have ever encountered. As a professional white woman I understand police corruption and abuse now. It doesn't just happen to minorities, or drug abusers, or homeless, or mentally ill. If it can happen to me it can literally happen to anyone.

Lisa Simeone
Lisa Simeone

Quoting: "As a professional white woman I understand police corruption and abuse now. It doesn't just happen to minorities, or drug abusers, or homeless, or mentally ill. If it can happen to me it can literally happen to anyone."

This is exactly what poor people and minorities have been trying to tell us for years. Decades. But privileged people don't want to believe it. It's all okay as long as it's happening to someone else. Usually, that "someone else" is powerless. I'm not saying this was your view; I'm saying this is the view of society in general.

The police have been beating, harassing, abusing, and even killing powerless people since time began. And unfortunately, it's only when truncheons, batons, tasers, and guns are turned on everyone else that they finally wake up.

949girl
949girl

Wow, I had no idea all of this was going on in Fullerton. Ron Thomas should really be proud of himself for not backing down and keeping his son's death in the spotlight. As for the guy committing suicide in jail, that investigation should be reopened. It's a shame that the city's money will be spent on paying out lawsuits to victims (who do deserve it) instead of improving the city by building parks and fixing roads. There wouldn't be lawsuits if these dirty cops would have been dealt with long ago. Great article!

Kevin Wallis
Kevin Wallis

well this is typical to all cops and there departments. Get ready people, they have the firepower and the governments backing, so we dont stand a chance.

Noistheanswer
Noistheanswer

"...One of the biggest obstacles in the way towards solving the problem of police brutality and misconduct is a fundamental lack of information about police misconduct."

AV
AV

"... most of the officers have good intentions, but the "bad apples" have gotten away with too much for too long."

Uh huh. How many times have we heard this one?

It's not just a few bad apples -- the whole barrel is rotten. Every officer is implicated for either brutalizing people or standing by and not doing anything while their colleagues brutalize people.

And it's not just physical brutality. Every officer is also involved in extortion and theft. Each minor infraction ticketed on the road, each peaceful person cited for having the wrong kind of vegetation in her pocket, is an act of robbery backed, ultimately, by the threat of imprisonment or violence. Last I checked, taking somebody's money by the threat of force is robbery; why should this ethical fact change if the robber wears a special costume?

It's become clear to many people that the term 'police' is a mere euphemism for armed individuals in costumes who generate revenue for governments, suppress political dissent (e.g. what we've seen from the Occupy Movement), and maintain unjust social relations.

They say they're "just doing their job." That is precisely the problem. The profession is fundamentally unjust.

Real crimes -- where there are actual victims that are harmed -- have been dealt with very efficiently for the larger part of human history, *without* police departments. Modern policing is a relatively recent phenomenon and it is both unnecessary and harmful. It has been shown to actually exacerbate crime rates. It's time to think of saner alternatives.

FilmingCops
FilmingCops

Fullerton is not an anomaly. Police terrorism happens every hour, every day, in every jurisdiction. The institution of state police itself is inherently unjust, and thus reform is misguided. Complete abolition of this institution is the way toward a freer, more just and humane society.

The Myth of Police "Protection": http://bit.ly/93qIg150+ Reasons to Abolish the Cops: http://is.gd/ZV7ayXWhy the Police Actually Exist: http://bit.ly/9mltV2Debunking Seven Myths About the Police: http://bit.ly/dWTKHZWhy All Police are Bad for Society: http://is.gd/k4OT8Domestic violence is 2 to 4 times more common in police families than in the general population. http://is.gd/xhGFBKA Brief History of the Police: http://is.gd/i3zJjfAssault or “enforcement”? That depends on the costume” http://is.gd/4Hh7jePolice abolition: http://is.gd/1xCAT2Liquidate Your Local Police Depts – an Idea Whose Time has Come: http://is.gd/u6ZzQGHow to Record the Police: http://bit.ly/aWcHXxCrime Prevention in a Society Without Police: http://bit.ly/djLAdFAlternatives in a World Without Police: http://bit.ly/cUejvuPersonal Safety and Self-Defense Resources: http://is.gd/Nygiys

See facebook.com/FilmingCops for daily updates of police terrorism and brutality.

malasangre
malasangre

like most socopaths i doubt they care if they go to prison. these guys will actually be extra protected because they're piggies. being addicted to Injustice Everywhere . com i started following this dept. when one of their finest stole an i-pad at a checkpoint at a Florida airport. guess she thought she was still in Fullerton.

malasangre
malasangre

further thinking suggests she just assumed all law enforcement acts this way ( not that their doesn't seem to be a slimy, moldy, stinkin rotten one in every barrel)

Paul
Paul

Citizens of Fullerton. Your city council has decided, in their wisdom, that you are a SELF insured city. That means when all these police "mistakes" settlements are paid out, your city will be bankrupt or close to it. Fullerton is on the list published in the OC Register of cities that spend an inordinate amount of the city funds on police and fire costs thus leaving the city with inadequate funds for roads, maintenance, etc. Your current city council made these poor financial decisions and you already have a 10% city water tax embedded in your water bill. Time to get involved, see what is happening to what was once a fine city, and help get the ship going in the right direction.

cookie
cookie

Great article. So well put together.

TheRefriedMexican
TheRefriedMexican

Unfortunately I had a personal run in with Fullerton PD a couple years back on New Years eve. Obviously it was nothing as serious as the stories told in this article but the way the Fullerton PD overreacted & treated me that night for "jaywalking", it doesn't surprise me one bit, that all this is coming out about these pigs. God bless all these victims.

Ron Moore
Ron Moore

Brilliant Marisa Gerber, just brilliant. Prior to the Kelly Thomas death beating by these rogue badged thugs, I had no idea what kind of corrupt evil nonsense was going on with FPD,This country needs up front and transparent reporting from journalists like yourself as opposed to the mainstream media channels that only report what lying bungholes like Sgt. Goodrich spews. I thank you and hope you rub off on others in your line of work.

Tmcollins
Tmcollins

Marisa, good story. The city needs to get rid of any bullies in blue. Keep up the pressure and it will eventually happen. What happened to the son of Deputy Thomas was a discusting abuse of power and the coverup attempt was minor league at best. If this happened in a bigger city, everyone of the cops who beat or stood by like a coward watching Thomas's son, get his ass beaten to death, would have probably been immediatly suspended. I hope everyone involved gets fired and/or are on their way to the joint. Cut the bad apples loose. These clowns in blue are bullies that lost their calling and would be more suited by maybe becoming security guards cause they do not have the brains to deal with the public and would be better suited working unarmed and shooing kids away from the parking lots of a dollar store or a fast food joint! Stay on the story and god bless Deputy Thomas and his family. Your day for justice is comming!tc

PSmith
PSmith

Deputy Thomas? Now that is funny. If I was Marisa, I would be really scared. I hope she gets sued from all the people she has lied about. Shouldnt open your mouth until you have the facts missy...

Joe
Joe

Nobody is above the laws. We have to get rid of these corrupted politicans, cops, gangs of thugs, and elected officials in Fullerton City. Recall and vote your hearts out. D

The following quotes are all from Thomas Jefferson: “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent. “ “Experience demands that man is the only animal which devours his own kind, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor. “ “Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny. “

“I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”

“We are not to expect to be translated from despotism to liberty in a featherbed.” “When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. When the government fears the people, there is liberty.” “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, IT IS THEIR DUTY, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. “ Declaration of Independence The above quotes by Jefferson show the real spirit of America. And may God enlighten the fascist Tories who wish them harm.

Daphnetg
Daphnetg

I love my town, but am ashamed at the old boy system that has allowed this abuse if power to ferment.

Culichi1967
Culichi1967

Would I get in trouble for proposing these motherfucken asswipe excuses of pigs be given a dose of their medicine, leading up to and including being beaten to death? What if I just think of it?

PSmith
PSmith

keep listening to Ron Thomas. Now there is a liar!

Moosquito
Moosquito

for Matta's family, even though its a painfull memory- you should go after answers now.... the evidence shows these cops could have altered any investigation..... polygraph test everyone in the station!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mark Stouffer
Mark Stouffer

I think there is an unclosed tag in your html.

 
Loading...