Hundreds of people showed up at the Fullerton City Council meeting
last night–as did mobile television vans from every major local station. The
overwhelming majority of people present were there to physically and vocally demonstrate their outrage over the July 5 beating of Kelly Thomas, a mentally ill homeless man, by six Fullerton cops. Thomas died five days later when his family removed him from life support.
That death has sparked investigations from both the Orange County
District Attorney's office as well as the U.S. Justice Department. But
based on comments at Tuesday's meeting, plenty of Fullerton
residents are ready and eager to draw their own conclusions.
From denunciations of former Police Chief Pat McKinley (who helmed
Fulllerton's PD from 1993 to 2009, before his election to Fullerton's
City Council in 2010) to calls for current Police Chief Michael Sellers
to resign, the tenor of the three-and-an-hour-half public-comment
portion of the council meeting was tense, to say the least.
The announcement at the beginning of the meeting that all six
officers involved in Thomas' apprehension have been put on
administrative leave did little to dull residents' ire.
Some 70 people were allowed to speak for three minutes each during
the public comments. Mayor Dick Jones
announced around 9 p.m. that public comments would be suspended at 10
p.m., in order for the city to deal with business that didn't involve
employees allegedly beating to death an unarmed, mentally ill person. (I'm paraphrasing that last part.)
After a great deal of venting of community anger, a bit of news emerged near the end of public comments. Tony Bushala, who runs
the Friends for Fullerton's Future blog, announced that, within 72 hours,
he would circulate a petition asking for the recall of Don Bankhead, Jones
and McKinley, the three Fullerton council members who have not gone on
record demanding that a city-owned surveillance tape of the area where
Thomas died be released to the public.
UPDATE, AUG. 3, 5:35 P.M.: In addition to taking photos, writer/photographer Ed Carrasco gathered these reactions from Fullerton residents in the crowd after the meeting:
“The council was stonewalling and bullshitting [tonight].
If they don't do what we want, we will remove them! We will do
everything we can to get this recall through. If not, rest assured that
Bankhead, Jones and McKinley will not be re-elected when their terms are
up.” — Andy Anderson
“The people here tonight are angry. [Chief] Seller is as corrupt as the officers he oversees. It starts from the top.” — Erin Lewis
“I apologize as a Fullerton resident [for the abuse by the six police
officers]. I am thankful that the audience tonight understand that the
city has graceful and understanding people, not like the six sadistic
cops…. If I were a police officer, I would be angry that these officers
weren't taken out of the force soon.” — Courtney Long
The Weekly's previous coverage of Thomas' death: