By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Earlier this month, the Fullerton Police Department won positive media attention for announcing it was creating dossiers on the city's homeless population. Cops are identifying, photographing and building files on a community believed to total about 200, ostensibly to assist officers in helping the downtrodden to find shelters, mental-health assistance or obtain substance-abuse counseling.
I don't doubt the sincerity of the officers assigned to the project and hope their work is beneficial. But let's not fool ourselves: The effort comes in the wake of the July 2011 gruesome police killing of Kelly Thomas. District Attorney Tony Rackauckas filed felony criminal charges against three of the six cops involved, who await a summer court date. Even if the program had been around for years, it wouldn't have prevented the Thomas tragedy.
Numerous Orange County police agencies—including in Fullerton—had extensive files documenting Thomas' homelessness, serious mental troubles and the fact that during at least 89 police contacts over an 18-year span, he'd never been violent toward a officer. Yet, that detailed knowledge didn't help save him because the cops involving in the beating didn't care about behaving professionally. They saw an opportunity to pounce on an annoying, defenseless, homeless guy, and they took it. No amount of dossiers can fix that problem.
Based on police reports obtained by the Weekly, here's the disturbing, cop-contact time line leading to the killing:
Jan. 8: 15-year-old Thomas is a homicide witness in Yorba Linda.
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Dec. 9: Los Angeles police arrest Thomas for disturbing the peace.
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Feb. 14: Placentia police cite Thomas, 19, for underage drinking of beer and peach-flavored brandy.
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June 8: Thomas accuses his grandfather of staring at his crotch, then beats him with a fireplace poker. He is arrested by Placentia police for attempted murder. Prosecutors later reduce the charge to assault, and he receives a punishment of 270 days in jail.
July 1: Thomas is assaulted by a fellow detainee at the Orange County Jail.
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Feb. 26: Fullerton cops question Thomas for acting suspiciously.
Feb. 28: La Habra police interview Thomas because he looks as though he has a "mental disorder."
April 27: Santa Ana police receive a report from a mental facility that Thomas is AWOL; he is suffering delusions and believes he is "Jesus Christ."
April 28: Thomas' father returns him to the facility.
Aug. 13: Santa Ana police receive a report that Thomas is again AWOL from the facility.
Aug. 14: Cypress police report Thomas stole his father's $550 guitar.
* * *
Nov. 1: Garden Grove police arrest Thomas for drinking alcohol in public.
Dec. 30: Mervyns employees in Cypress complain that Thomas is shoving underwear down his pants and laughing at everybody.
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March 5: Anaheim police stop Thomas for trespassing on railroad property.
March 9: Fullerton police stop Thomas for driving an unregistered car.
March 21: Cypress police find Thomas acting strangely around an elementary school.
April 6: Los Alamitos cops find Thomas acting strangely near a residence.
April 9: Cypress cops arrest Thomas for disturbing the peace.
April 18: La Palma police warn Thomas to stop begging for food at a Denny's.
April 22: Cypress cops detain Thomas on suspicion of vehicle burglary and note he's "very dirty" and "had urinated on himself."
April 24: Cypress cops find a despondent Thomas, who claims to be upset over his mother's death—something that, in reality, hadn't occurred.
July 19: Fullerton police find Thomas sleeping in a planter box at the Fullerton Transportation Center.
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April 27: Placentia police cite Thomas for starting a fire in a public park.
April 28: Placentia police order Thomas off the roof of a residence.
May 12: Westminster police question Thomas for suspicious activity.
June 18: Fullerton cops identify Thomas as a "new transient" and interview him.
* * *
Jan. 21: Brea police find Thomas, missing from a drug rehab, behind a business.
Feb. 12: Anaheim police find Thomas sleeping at the rear of a business.
Feb. 27: Anaheim police question Thomas for loitering.
March 24: Thomas is ticketed by Cypress cops for walking in a bicycle lane.
May 4: Brea police arrest Thomas for stealing fried chicken and tortilla chips from an Albertsons.
May 5: Thomas is arrested for loitering at an Albertsons in Brea.
May 10: Fullerton cops warn Thomas to stop eating food off customers' plates at Knowlwood.
May 27: Fullerton cops find Thomas loitering at Concrete Park.
July 3: Fullerton cops warn Thomas about residential trespassing.
Aug. 26: Anaheim police arrest Thomas for four misdemeanors.
Oct. 18: Santa Ana police receive a report that Thomas is AWOL from a mental-health facility.
Nov. 2: Fullerton cops warn Thomas about residential trespassing.
Dec. 19: Fullerton cops arrest Thomas for punching a man after being confronted for saying to a 14-year-old girl, "Hey, sexy."
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March 22: Fullerton cops cite Thomas for urinating in public and, 10 hours later, warn him to stop loitering.
June 10: Fullerton cops warn Thomas to stop loitering at a Starbucks.
June 15: La Palma police arrest Thomas on an outstanding warrant.
June 25: Thomas is told to leave an Albertsons because he is terrifying customers, yelling and cussing at cashiers, and urinating in a planter.
July 22: Brea police arrest Thomas at an Albertsons for trespassing.
* * *
Nov. 21: Thomas' mother reports her son is schizophrenic, a runaway, tends to be violent and carries a knife; he is unarmed and cooperative when located by officers.
Dec. 11: Thomas' mother reports her son is off his medications, threatened her with a knife and had been self-committed to Western Medical Center.