In the video, one of the officers can be heard telling Thomas, who was schizophrenic, “See my fists? They’re getting ready to start fucking you up.” When he doesn’t immediately comply and instead stands up, another officer charges in and hits him with a baton, and a scuffle ensues.
For the next approximately eight minutes, Thomas is pinned by the two officers, then up to as many as four more arrive and pile on. As Thomas pleads for mercy and complains that he cannot breathe, he’s tased and punched repeatedly. The treatment continues until Thomas’s cries morph into inaudible grunts and moans.
He was comatose after the beating, and died five days later after being taken off life support. Needless to say, the video is not for the faint of heart.
The cause of death, officially, was compression of his thorax. Two officers were charged in the case, one of them with second-degree murder.
Activists in Fullerton have been demonstrating for months, and Thomas’s parents have been trying to force the tape into public view. One of them, Ron Thomas, is a former Orange County Sheriff’s deputy — and in the video, his son can be heard crying for his father repeatedly. Because of their status and the shocking nature of the killing, their petitions have even been supported by a member of the Fullerton City Council.
The footage was first shown in a courtroom on Monday, when it was also revealed that a paramedic who was charged with treating Thomas had paused to attend to the officers first, even though they’d only suffered minor scrapes from wrestling Thomas to the pavement. An earlier tape, shot from across the street, did not show Thomas’s ordeal in nearly as much detail.
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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