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Why Was Kelly Thomas Beaten?

                                                          by Allen R. Kates, MFAW, BCECR

                                                     Police Officers tasing and beating schizophrenic Kelly Thomas

Why was Kelly Thomas beaten so severely, and tased and struck repeatedly. Were the police officers out of control? Did the officers feel threatened? Did Kelly Thomas provoke them and resist?

There is no evidence that Thomas struck the officers. On the contrary, the evidence shows that Thomas cooperated fully up until the moment he was grabbed by Officer Ramos. Despite being bullied, belittled, sworn at, humiliated and threatened by the officer, he did what Ramos asked.

Thomas Was Terrified Out Of His Mind

By the time Ramos grabbed Thomas and ordered him to get on the ground and submit to being cuffed, Thomas was terrified out of his mind. What would you have done under the same circumstances? What would you have done if you were alone on the street and a police officer threatened to “fuck you up” with his fists? Would you have run? Would you have screamed for help? Would you have resisted? Would you have tried to reason with a cop who seemed out of control?

Our Natural Stress Response

Under extreme pressure, the stress response is naturally activated in a human being. Adrenaline is released, preparing your body for action. Your heart will pound, your breathing will increase. You may sweat profusely. That means that when threatened and in fear for your life, you will run, fight or freeze.

What did Thomas try to do when Ramos and then the other officers set upon him? He tried to resist, escape, a completely natural reaction when you fear for your life. And when he couldn’t get away, he wailed for his father to help him.

What Do The Police Officers’ Say Happened?

The attorneys for Officer Manuel Ramos and Cpl. Jay Cicinelli said that Thomas was “a violent and dangerous criminal who was combative with officers and provoked them to use force.”* They said that Thomas’s 1995 conviction for assaulting his grandfather with a deadly weapon shows his violent side.

The attorneys dispute the number of times Cicinelli hit Thomas with his Taser and the threats that Ramos allegedly made. The attorneys said that Thomas struggled with officers, ignored their commands and was warned repeatedly before they resorted to force. “I believe none of the officers were (sic) responsible… Lethal force was the result of Kelly’s actions,” said John Barnett, Ramos’ attorney.*

*Source: Los Angeles Times, Latimes.com 9/27/11

Orange County District Attorney, Tony Rackauckas, said that Officer Ramos “initiated the violence without provocation and that a surveillance video showed Thomas to be acting in self-defense, in pain and in panic.”*

Cicinelli’s defense attorney, Michael Schwartz, said the officers used reasonable force to deal with a “combative, violent suspect” who fought them, kicked, flailed and tried to grab the Taser from his client’s hand. He also disputes the statement that Cicinelli hit Thomas 8 times in the head and face with the front of the Taser. He said that the officer only hit him twice. In contrast, the video (a second video, not released to the media) shows Cicinelli striking Thomas with the Taser before he grabbed for it, and then hitting him 7 more times.*

Schwartz also said that Ramos’ words, “See these fists? They are getting ready to fuck you up if you don’t do what I say,” were said simply as an effort to make Thomas obey his commands.*

Susan Kang Schroeder, the district attorney’s chief of staff, said that “No reasonable jury will believe the threat made like that could ever be conditional. It was made in a menacing way… We know what Ramos meant because he carried it out.”*

*Source: Quotations and information from “Kelly Thomas provoked cops charged in his death, attorneys say.” By Abby Sewell and Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times, 9/27/11.

What The Video Shows

While watching the first 15 minutes of the bus depot video, I did not see anger, belligerence or aggressiveness on Thomas’s part. What I saw was a gentle, confused, helpless, traumatized soul. In the first quarter hour, he was cooperative and quiet while his bag was searched and Ramos watched him. He did not resist until Ramos seized him.

For the complete story and video, please click here.

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