The Kelly Thomas Death Mystery

In the nearly two decades since his son, Kelly Thomas, descended into madness, Ron Thomas has worried every day that the schizophrenic 37-year-old would die of exposure or illness on the streets. He never imagined the end would come in a violent confrontation with police.

The death last month was the end of a trajectory that began when Kelly Thomas was in his early 20s and started showing the first signs of what would later be diagnosed as schizophrenia. He shuttled between addresses, preferred to sleep on the floor and stopped showering. In treatment, Thomas did well and was able to hold down a job.

However, when he stopped taking his medication, he disappeared onto the streets. He racked up an array of charges, from public urination to assault with a deadly weapon, and alarmed his parents with his bizarre behavior.

“My daughter and I have talked for years that we’d get the call that something had happened to him, whether it was from organ failure because he’s not drinking enough fluids or the elements or maybe gang activity,” said his father, Ron Thomas.

Last month, Kelly was sitting on a bench at the Fullerton Transportation Center, a hub for buses and commuter trains where homeless people congregate, when six police officers arrived to investigate reports of a man burglarizing cars nearby. Police said he ran when they tried to search his backpack and that he resisted arrest. The incident was captured by a bystander with a cell phone, and bus surveillance tape released Monday showed agitated witnesses describing how officers beat Thomas and used a stun gun on him repeatedly as he cried out for his father.

By: Tina Hodges
Published: Aug 5, 2021
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