February 21, 2012 | 9:43pm
The attorney charged with independently reviewing the police response to the Kelly Thomas killing presented his first report tonight to a special session meeting of the Fullerton city council and cleared the police of a cover up.
Flanked by rows of buzzing television cameras in front of a packed house, Michael Gennaco, a former U.S. Attorney, told city representatives he does not believe the Fullerton police intentionally falsified facts given to the public after Thomas's death at the hands of six police officers.
It was a revelation that prompted audible guffaws as well as sobbing followed by angry public comments from members of Kelly's Army.
Ron Thomas at city council hearing on the death of his son
Gennaco's report, based on information collected from witness statements, audio and video recordings as well as city records revealed publicly unknown facts about the night Thomas was killed and sought to address concerns over a possible cover up by police.
Most revelatory were details about the initial call to police. Some have argued that after the beating, police fabricated an anonymous call about a man breaking into cars. But Gennaco said the call in fact came from a woman at the Transportation Center who bypassed the 911 system and dialed the police dispatcher directly. She reportedly saw a man she knew "roaming the parking lot," of the Transportation Center, "looking into cars," and "pulling on handles."
Councilmember Dick Jones remarked that even he didn't have the dispatcher's direct line and asked why this unidentified person did.
"When a person has need for service often," Gennaco said, "you sometimes learn that number."
Though Gennaco wouldn't name the caller, Weekly
reporter R. Scott Moxley
has previously revealed that law enforcement records identify a Slidebar Rock-N-Roll Kitchen
Other areas of Gennaco's investigation focused on initial statements by police spokesman Sgt. Andrew Goodrich who said two officers had suffered broken bones as a result of the struggle with Thomas. Though Goodrich backed off this statement in the days following Thomas's death, Gennaco claimed it wasn't falsification.
After examining medical records of the officers in question there was "some documentation of possible fractures," though eventually proven inaccurate. Gennaco added one officer needed surgery. And while he said Goodrich's misstatements were honest mistakes, Gennaco added it would have been advisable to delay releasing information to the public about the issue or to have told the public the information was tentative.
Also discussed were the contents of Thomas's back pack, which held junk mail belonging to an unidentified attorney. The attorney in question was contacted and notified Gennaco the items hadn't been stolen.
Questions about a mug shot released by Fullerton police showing Thomas after a 2009 arrest for trespassing were adressed. There were those who argued the mugshot was not Thomas, but in fact another person. Gennaco maintained the photo was Thomas and that phone records from the jail that evening indicate a call to Thomas's mother. Though police didn't violate any laws by releasing the photo, Gennaco suggested they should have consulted the family before its release.
Following the special session, Kelly's father Ron Thomas told reporters he felt Gennaco had done a thorough job. When asked if he was satisfied police didn't falsify information regarding his son's death, Thomas said, "I do believe there was not an intent. However, I believe they jumped at an opportunity to make Kelly look really bad."
More reports are expected. Gennaco said he will have access to more information once the police department's internal investigation is completed sometime next week.
The two Fullerton police officers charged in Thomas' killing face a preliminary hearing next month in Orange County Superior Court.