Kelly Thomas is my son. He is a son for all families with loved ones caught in the maw of mental illness. Last July in Fullerton, CA, police assaulted, beat, and tazed Thomas, a 37 year old homeless man with schizophrenia. Thomas died five days later.
Today, a heart-sickening 33 minute police video of the tragedy was released. For the first 14 minutes, police question a slightly confused but quiet Thomas, who seems compliant. And then, after one of the officers brandishes his fists in Thomas’ face and says “these are gonna f— you up”, all hell breaks loose. Thomas is severely beaten with nightsticks, tazed five times, and bodily smothered by six burly officers. Two officers are now on trial for murder. (Click here for KTLA’s news report.)
Exercising police force on a homeless loved one with schizophrenia requires great skill, sensitivity, and judgement. Police need to be highly attuned to the challenges of those suffering such illness. CIT, or Crisis Intervention Training, is widely available to police for learning such knowledge. Communities should stand with families in the maelstrom to demand that their police receive such training. Police chiefs everywhere should exercise their leadership to ensure their forces are sufficiently trained.
Kelly Thomas, requiescat in pace. May God bless and keep and ever make His face to shine upon Kelly Thomas and his family.