The Kelly Thomas Beating & 'Fullerton Metal Jacket': Where It All Started

The first thing I thought of when I heard about the Kelly Thomas beating was the first cover story I wrote for OC Weekly some 16 years ago. Fullerton Metal Jacket: When The Police Go Military, The City Goes Vietnam,” was published on March 8, 1996, just months into our paper's existence. It concerned the unsolved murder of Ramon Toro, a Mexican immigrant who was shot while attending a meeting at an alcohol-rehab facility in Fullerton. The bullet had been fired during an altercation on the street outside, and the shooter was never identified.

Police used Toro's murder as a pretext to conduct a massive pre-dawn raid in the city's Latino-heavy Maple neighborhood, failing to find the murder weapon, but brutalizing a lot of families with the excuse that the barrio was home to the city's oldest gang, Fullerton Tokers Town. The cops even brought along the LA Times, leading to a predictably friendly article, “Fullerton Police Give Gangs a Wakeup Call.” I knew I had a cover story on my hands when I attended a meeting between those families and police officials that the Times failed to attend. And the precise moment when I realized this was when the bald Pat McKinley, then chief of police–and now chief city council apologist for the cops who killed Thomas–basically told the complaining residents they could go screw themselves.


Yes, the Thomas beating brought back memories, and so did Marisa Gerber's definitive story for us last November, “Bullies In Blue.” But watching the video of the brutal incident–actually I could only make it about a minute into the tape–made me so angry that I finally went down to my basement and dug up the original copy of  my story. It's common knowledge now even among the mainstream media that the Fullerton Police Department is, or at least until recently was, an institution completely out of control, but now you can click on this link, read “Fullerton Metal Jacket” in its entirety, and see for yourself where all the craziness started.

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