“I just start smashing his face to hell.”

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

This police beating of Kelly Thomas is one of the most heartbreaking videos I’ve ever seen. Not just for Thomas, although quite obviously for Thomas. But also for the sheer depravity—the staring-you-in-the-face confirmation that your fellow human beings are capable of this sort of thing.

Of course, the point is also that these aren’t just any human beings. You can find violent videos at sites like World Star Hip Hop that are every bit as soul-crushing. But these are the people we entrust with the exclusive power to use coercive force—which we do in the interest of protecting the public. Days after the beating, one of these animals called into a radio show to boast about it. The night of the beating, one of them demanded treatment for a scrape on his elbow as Thomas lay dying a few feet away, looking like this.

Public officials closed ranks. A “special assistant to the DA” was brought on to defend the officers. The police department shut down the flow of information, then released misinformation (though another public official later found no fault with that). The city then tried to pay Thomas’ father $900,000 to go away.

Were it not for a citizen with a cell phone camera, the agitation of a local blog, and the determination of Thomas’ father, himself a former cop, we may never have known about Kelly Thomas. And these animals could well still be on the police force in Fullerton.

It’s difficult as hell, but you should still sit down to watch this video. Once you’re done, you can restore some optimism with this video from Reason.tv, which explains how technology and social media eventually shamed Fullerton officials into taking action.

(Via Carlos Miller, who has much more.)


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75 Responses to ““I just start smashing his face to hell.””

  1. #1 |  Jozef | 

    Very well said, calling those cops by their right name. Biologically, they may be identical to people, but the definition of a human being also includes a certain set of moral beliefs and actions. These cops are nothing more than a bunch of hairless apes, and they should be treated like such.

  2. #2 |  Bronwyn | 

    Hearing Kelly Thomas’ last words, his cries for his daddy, were wrenching and stood in awful, horrifying contrast with the cold and flippant violence of his murderers.

    How anyone can look at this and continue to think it’s just a few bad apples or an isolated incident is beyond me. This is a deep cultural problem, and it is ubiquitous.

  3. #3 |  Yizmo Gizmo | 

    Wasn’t there a film in 70’s called THX-1138 where nameless, faceless cops
    just electrocute and beat the crap out anybody who doesn’t follow their
    stupid orders? That was supposed to be fiction, not “official protocol.”

  4. #4 |  Whim | 

    The police, the prosecutors, and the judges are a closed loop of injustice. Anyone of gets caught up in the maelstrom of the legal system will be lucky to just survice. You’re an outsider, looking in in bewonderment.

    The prosecutor in the Kelly Thomas murder did NOT want to prosecute the police. In fact, the DA limited those charged to only two of the perpertrators. All others could have been charged as accessories.

    But it’s not over. When a favored member of the establishment, including police, finally have to face justice in a court of law, the prosecutor pulls a patented ploy called the Intentionally Incompetent Prosecution.

    That lets the perpertrator skate without undue risk of a guilty verdict.

    Just watch.

  5. #5 |  Cornellian | 

    I can’t bring myself to watch that video.

    And yes, THX1138 was an early George Lucas movie, before he hit the big time with Star Wars.

  6. #6 |  30 year lawyer | 

    Serve, protect, stomp, KILL, and …most importantly … cover-up. As a class, they are America’s Worst because they hide behind the authority of a piece of tin. In every high school class there is a band of thugs — ten years later 1/2 are criminals and the other 1/2 are cops. You can predict the end result but not the individual.

    It’s too bad that “good” cops feel threatened by an angry public. But as long as the Blue Wall of Silence exists, every one in the wall is an accomplice of the worst. And we know how the law, properly, treats accomplices — the same as the primary actor.

    BTW, it is time voters began going after selectively “Imcompatent” prosecutors.

  7. #7 |  Andrew S. | 

    I could barely bring myself to watch the video. I couldn’t listen to the audio. It would probably crush me.

    I don’t see how anybody could possibly watch this video and not think all of the officers involved deserve very long prison sentences. I know it’s something I’ve asked before here, and it’s probably rhetorical… but how in the heck did we allow ourselves to get to this point?

  8. #8 |  nigmalg | 

    Here’s an interesting question: What responsibility to the other responding officers have when they arrived as backup? As far as I understand, only the two initial officers are being charged.

    I understand that only Regular Civilians(tm) can be liable if they don’t stop a crime, not police. So you couldn’t get them on any rendering aid statutes. What about accessories to manslaughter when they piled on Thomas?

  9. #9 |  Whim | 

    What is it about police training that they absolutely can NEVER back-off, and defuse an already stressful and volatile confrontation with a citizen, a situation entirely of their own making?

    Kelly Thomas was not apparently doing anything. The person who made the original 9-1-1 call probably partly culpable since they called the police. Kelly Thomas had experienced numerous encounters with the police. They probably didn’t like him.

    Did they need to kill him?

  10. #10 |  Andrew S. | 

    @#8 nigmalg: I’ve long stopped laboring under the assumption that police officers are subject to the same laws as the general public. If six of us had done the exact same thing as six of those officers, there’s no question in my mind that all six, regardless of how much participating in the beating each one of us had, would be charged with either 1st or 2nd degree murder.

  11. #11 |  Bee | 

    I live in LA. This video was the top story on the news the other night after the Angels game ended. I was in the kitchen, but walked back into the living room when I heard screaming, thinking “WTH is on my TV?”

    I think a lot of people here have seen the video in the last couple of days, and are shocked. The cops literally behave like animals savaging a weaker prey. It’s like a damn nature show.

    The media here has just put us through the soul-searching exercise of “20 years after the Rodney King/LA Riots”, with lots of op-eds, TV specials, retrospectives, etc., so the topic is actually on people’s minds right now. Every person I’ve heard talk about this Fullerton incident thinks that these cops will be completely exonerated. Why should this be any different than the Rodney King incident? There won’t be riots this time, though, because Fullerton is really a pretty orderly place, and because there is no group consciousness among white mentally ill middle-class semi-homeless guys.

  12. #12 |  Phil in Parker | 

    The primary officer is looking at 15 years. Under what circumstances could any of us beat to death someone, bring in others to help the beating, and only be looking at a mid-level felony. Now, what if the victim was an innocent LEO.

    Still, no justice. A LEO in uniform should face elevated charges just for committing a crime, same as we would face elevated charges just because the victim is an LEO.

    I hope someday people will care.

    BTW, I couldn’t make it to the 5:00 mark

  13. #13 |  overgoverned | 

    The officer told Kelly to sit down, and he did; told him to put his legs out in front of him, and he did; told him to put his hands on his knees, and he did. Then he threatened him and grabbed him. Then they beat him to death. Google up some news stories that have this video, and read the comment threads: they’re a good 25% about how you should obey the police or you’ll get what’s coming to you.

  14. #14 |  overgoverned | 

    Also, the officers had their evidence tech take photos of their injuries at the scene of the “fight,” to show how badly they were hurt during the struggle. This pairing of photographs makes me laugh and choke on bile at the same time:


  15. #15 |  nigmalg | 

    The officer told Kelly to sit down, and he did; told him to put his legs out in front of him, and he did; told him to put his hands on his knees, and he did. Then he threatened him and grabbed him.

    I noticed the same thing. The first officer definitely walked up to Thomas with a beating ready to go. I honestly don’t know what Thomas could have done to avoid getting seriously injured.

  16. #16 |  Cyto | 

    I only made it two minutes in to the video. Even not knowing that the poor victim was about to be murdered the pointless power games from the initial officer were gut wrenching. Then when the second officer runs up and attempts to shatter his kneecap I had all I could take. Maybe I’ll watch it some day, but I’ve had my quota for evil. If anything the video shows that the crime was more hideous and the victim more blameless than the initial claims from the family indicated.

    Every public official who had access to this evidence and didn’t immediately move for a capital murder case against the officers should be co-defendants in the murder case as accessories after the fact. There is zero justification for these officer’s actions and there should be no cover for those who would seek to protect them.

  17. #17 |  Bill Poser | 

    These cops should be executed in the football stadium.

  18. #18 |  Burgers Allday | 

    Given that the one policeman said, “I am going to [expletive deleted] you up” prior to the fatal attack, I don’t see how this isn’t first degree murder.

    Thi statement also supplied the other officer with clear notice of his collegues intentions (which would then be imputed to him since he did not withdraw).

  19. #19 |  marie | 

    If I couldn’t watch the Columbia MO video where the home-invading cops shot the dogs, I sure as heck can’t get through this one. I’m sorry I can’t. Everyone should know this happened. I am so sorry for Mr. Thomas and the family and friends he left behind.

    Most people have no idea what is routine for law enforcement now. I had my first real lesson when ICE agents invaded my home to execute a search warrant. Their first move through the door was to aim a gun at our dog though the agent didn’t fire. Maybe because I threw myself in between the gun and the dog.

    Law enforcement officers have far too much power. They get away with it because it can be ignored when it happens to someone else. When it happens to you, it is like the first time you wore glasses–you can’t believe how clear it all is. I am trying my level best to let people know what happened to our family but my level best is limited to anonymous blogging.

  20. #20 |  Jack Dempsey | 

    Let’s just pretend that these cops do go to trial. And let’s just assume they are convicted. And let’s just assume that they get a long, long time in prison. Are we then suppose to swallow the line that “the system worked”? If all this happened, and IF these cops actually are found guilty and sent away, are we just to accept that the job is done, the criminal justice worked and “two more bad guys are off the streets”?

    The start of this video was the most difficult. Obviously that cop was spoiling for a fight. If he goes to prison, this will make all the bad stuff happen and show that the system worked, right?

  21. #21 |  Quiet Desperation | 


    It was a show on one of the holographic entertainment channels. Whether it was supposed to have been real or acted, well, you’d have to ask Lucas. *Seemed* like it was supposed to be real.


    What are you looking for, exactly? All we can do is handle each case as it comes, and push for the most just outcomes, and maybe some day the number of cases will dwindle.

    Personally, I’d be looking to the sciences to develop a decently accurate test for sociopathy, and give it to every applicant for any public office, including elected ones. That really is the ultimate problem here- the alpha sociopaths (as I call them) getting into positions of power and authority. Hey, we keep the pedos away from the kiddies, right? Keep the socios away from authority.

    As for the video, I just can’t watch it. I’m a black hearted mid-40s SOB, and just the audio choked me up.

  22. #22 |  mousefeathers | 

    “… you should still sit down to watch this video.”

    No. I can’t. I close my eyes at scenes in movies, for crying out loud, knowing they aren’t really doing the horrific things they depict. I could not watch that video and ever sleep again.

    I can forgive many things, when the perpetrator truly repents his or her actions because of some personal growth and demonstrates that by ongoing behavior (go figure, an atheist that believes in this-world redemption). Somehow, I doubt that I will ever be challenged to forgive any of the animals who killed Kelly Thomas by having them become actual human beings again.

  23. #23 |  Cyto | 

    After further reading, it appears that the second officer who runs up and tries to break Kelly’s leg with his baton – initiating the excessive force – is not charged with a crime. Wow.

    I’m with Burgers. In any other circumstance if one person walked up to another and threatened to ‘f’ him up and then proceeded to do so unto death you’d have a straightforward and simple case of premeditated murder. How in the heck they couldn’t come up with first degree for the fat guy is beyond me. Also, smashing someone’s face repeatedly with a heavy steel object is obviously deadly force. Not a single one of those blows was in any way self defense, so how are they not straightforward evidence of murder 1?

    This whole thing was rotten from the first approach by the officer, and it continues to get worse every time they move. I don’t have much confidence in the judge in the case either. At FultonStories they describe the hearing. When a couple of women gasped audibly at the violence of the initial blow, the judge ordered them out of the court. If you are going to pretend that clinical detachment is the only appropriate response to that level of violence, you are not very likely to find justice.

  24. #24 |  Quiet Desperation | 

    Also, don’t forget John & Ken on KFI in Los Angeles who have been all over this case, spreading awareness to millions of listeners. One of the points they repeatedly make is that the public needs to abandon this childlike, Norman Rockwell view of the police as knights in blue armor. Adam-12 is a fantasy show right along side I Dream Of Jeannie and Bewitched.

    Anecdote: friend of mine years ago was in a rock band, so he had long blond hair. Female cop pulls him over for NO reason, and is eventually shouting “I know you have drugs in this car! Where are they?” She eventually cut him loose. Oh, and his band was a Christian band, and he was the head of a local program to keep kids away from drugs and to help former drug addicts get their lives back in order. Guy never even drank alcohol as long as I knew him, and was fanatical about his health and diet.

  25. #25 |  Cyto | 

    More insanity from reading up on this case: they detained Mr. Thomas for failing to identify himself…. but they knew him by name from several prior encounters. So more screwing with the crazy homeless guy for the sake of screwing with the crazy homeless guy.

    Over at the LA Times they have a news story from channel 5 that characterizes the encounter as “It begins with Thomas arguing with police officers”… with the lead-in and sound cut so you don’t see the fat guy taunting and harassing Thomas as a prelude to a beating. This from a story that is firmly in the “this was a horrific beating” camp. They just can’t bring themselves to really look into the face of evil and know that their own government is staring back at them.

  26. #26 |  Rob in CT | 

    Are there psych profile tests available that could weed out people who become cops so they can abuse others? Because it sure seems like we could use that (if such a magic pony exists). Clearly, some portion of the population of cops is in it to get their rocks off abusing their authority.

    Protect and Serve. Not torture and kill.

  27. #27 |  all day every day | 

    everyone loses on this one

    Thomas: dead.

    the cops: to be able to behave in this manner, their lives (even before this mauling became public) are not worth living.

    me: I produce yet another thorny shell to protect my humanity, my ability to love is lessened.

  28. #28 |  marie | 

    Are there psych profile tests available that could weed out people who become cops so they can abuse others?

    No, but we have something better than fishing for personality types: we have the rule of law. Now, let’s use it.

    As for what I’m looking for, Quiet Desperation, I’m looking for a populace who is aware of–and outraged by–the militarization of police, and who recognizes that it means a loss of freedom for everyone, even those who obey the law. Radley Balko made me aware of what is going on; ICE agents at my home put a fire under me in my need to help. Many people are willing to stick their neck out for those who use illegal drugs; not so many are willing to speak up on behalf of sex offenders. So I’m trying.

  29. #29 |  SJE | 

    I can’t watch the video. All I can think of is asking Judge Posner what would have happened if this video were made illegal.

  30. #30 |  SJE | 

    Marie @28: exactly right. What we need is rule of law to apply equally.

  31. #31 |  Whim | 

    The antisocial or asocial psychological profiles elicited from police candidates help guarantee them a slot in the next police academy.

    They ARE in fact carefully screened….for psychotic behavior. It’s a qualifier. Who else would willingly commit such vile, reprehensible acts against helpless, harmless individuals?

  32. #32 |  Long time reader first time poster | 

    I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t watch the whole video, it made me sick. I hope the subhumans who did this are punished.

  33. #33 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    “and the determination of Thomas’ father, himself a former cop, we may never have known about Kelly Thomas. And these animals could well still be on the police force in Fullerton.”

    Count me among those who couldn’t get through the whole video. I saw enough in about three to four minutes. The first officer on scene was a thuggish piece of shit. When he showed his fist and started talking shit, he committed assault (which, in my state, means a credible threat to harm a person). Then he progressed to battery (unwanted touching). And now he is a murderer. He was out for blood. Probably thought it served Kelly right for being homeless and “weird.” This is the mindset of a schoolyard bully, of course.

    If I was Kelly Thomas’ father, I would probably have a pretty powerful urge right now to use the training and knowledge obtained in my previous occupation to take care of this vile individual. To rid the world of his presence. To make sure he doesn’t use his authority to harm others again. I would probably have that urge, right or wrong.

  34. #34 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    “The night of the beating, one of them demanded treatment for a scrape on his elbow as Thomas lay dying a few feet away, looking like this.”

    If I was the responding paramedic, I probably would have called this turd a pussy as I ran past him to begin assessing Kelly Thomas. It’s called triage, motherfucker!

  35. #35 |  Other Sean | 

    One further detail to aggravate matters:

    California is one of several states that require police officers to be trained in non-combative methods of interacting with people who suffer from developmental disability or mental illness.

    One of the things that usually happens in such courses, is that the instructor will explain how normal standards of “cooperation” and “defiance” are irrelevant and misleading when applied to people in mental health crisis. The takeaway message amounts to telling police: “you’d have to be very stupid to get yourself into a contempt-of-cop pissing contest with a sick person”.

    These officers would have had that explained to them, either in the academy or after. They would also have learned about a variety of bureaucratic agencies and NGOs that will respond to the needs of schizophrenic homeless people. And yet still, they did what they did.

  36. #36 |  EH | 

    other sean: that’s why they’re asserting in the prelim that they didn’t know he was mentally ill.

    As for why other officers aren’t being charged, it’s a curious case of the felony murder doctrine, but maybe if Ramos is convicted they can go after the others once the felony is established.

  37. #37 |  CB | 

    >But these are the people we entrust with the exclusive
    >power to use coercive force—which we do in the interest of
    >protecting the public.

    These days, ostracization and vigilatism are looking like better methods for society to deal with immoral, harmful, and dangerous people and protect protect the public. Statist propaganda has brainwashed people into thinking that our system of state-sanctioned violence (the police) is best. In fact, as proven daily by this website, our system only supports the creation of harmful, immoral, and dangerous people and enables them!

  38. #38 |  Michael Chaney | 

    To get an idea of the depravity that passes for sanity in law enforcement, do a google search like this:

    site:policeone.com kelly thomas

    and read the articles and comments posted there. Nobody ever mentions the fact that Thomas had committed no crimes, or that Ramos verbally threatened him before killing him. The verbal threat is enough in many jurisdictions to lose all protections of a law enforcement officer, but nobody seems to think that’s so bad.

    Then there’s the stupidity of him having 400+ lbs. of thug on his back but he’s “resisting” when he can’t turn over and put him arms behind his back.

    There is one good comment in the articles there from a cop who says he’s been a cop in various capacities for 50 years. Read that one so you’ll understand it hasn’t always been this way.

  39. #39 |  Sean | 

    I just heard on KFI 640 AM (Los Angeles) that since being placed on unpaid leave Ramos has been working a private security gig, and Cicinelli has been working in some other field. One day they might be back in law enforcement if they get off on these charges.

  40. #40 |  Joanne | 

    I can’t for the life of me figure out why any decent person would ever join the police force. Making life miserable for others and lording thuggish power appeals to depraved persons only. Is it fun for these sick personalities to go around and ruin lives all day? Our country has 5% of the worlds population and 25% of the world’s prisoners. Are we really that bad or is it them? God help us, we have become a police state and things are steadily getting worse.

  41. #41 |  johnl | 

    What was the radio show someone called into to boast?

  42. #42 |  Burgers Allday | 

    To chime in on the side of police, I actually think this is an isolated incident.

    I know that it is a punchline around here and it desreves to be a punchline, generally speaking.

    But, with this one, I actually think “isolated incident” applies.

    And yes, I have seen other excessive force videos, from Rodney King, to the Philadelphia carswarming beating of 2008(?), to the Southern California neck tatoos guy who got a kick in the head, to the one in the yard of the Houston self storage, to the recent Milwaukee one, to the one in the DC subway with the hot girl, Pirone and Marysol trying to get a rise out of Grant, and so on.

    I don’t get too fired up about police excessive force videos that don’t have any shooting or tasering. They are bad, but not generally that bad. In fact the only one that ever got me real riled was Duanna Johnson and that had more to do with why they beat “her” rather than the nature of the beating itself (and I strongly suspect the police ended up later killing “her” for bringing a civil suit over the beating — which is definitely worse for justice than anything happening in Fullerton, imperfect though the state response may be).

    I don’t think this case is emblemmatic of larger problem with police. I don’t think it is emblemmatic of anything but first degree murder by a ringleader who went overboard and 5 more who decided to come along for the ride. As bad as police culture is (and it is real, rel bad), I don’t think it is fair to say the Kelly Thomas beating represents, or reflects, those problems.

    And, if you follow policeone, you can tell that the “support’ for the Fullerton Six is conditional, pro forma and subdued (for the most part).

  43. #43 |  Linda | 

    It is hard for me to pick which photo disgusts me the most…..the one of the bloody, beaten, dying man in the hospital bed, or the one of the police officer posing for the camera with his scraped elbow. Not sure either photo will ever leave my memory.

  44. #44 |  Burgers Allday | 

    apparently the indictments 9or whatever thy are called) have been handed down. the charges will go to trial unless there is a plea deal (like in the Kathryn Johnston case).

  45. #45 |  SPO | 

    I am a law and order conservative, and I generally support police. Law and order, of course, means just that–law and order. The law on assault, battery, murder etc. shouldn’t change simply because the perp has a badge.

    The issue, of course, is not just the police, but the cover. How does one see this video and defend the cops’ behavior?

  46. #46 |  el coronado | 

    What we got here is a snuff film, nothing less.

    The issue, as many here have pointed out, is the age-old ‘who will watch the watchers?’ dilemma. I submit the problem is the “Law” itself, especially the system that’s evolved to enforce it. Cops like the scum in question – and the puppyciders, and the stalkers, and the trigger-happy gun-notchers – have the DA, the guy who’s *supposed to* prosecute them when they pull this shit, over a rather large barrel. That barrel is procedure.

    A DA can lose a case because of poor procedure in any one of a thousand ways, I’m told. From ‘didn’t read suspect his rights’ to ‘improper search’ to ‘imperfect chain of evidence’, a cop can torpedo a DA’s case any time he/it wants to. The DA knows this, *and so do the cops*. So if a DA goes after a cop, they, like any good street gang, will retaliate: procedural errors by the bushel; bad guys walk free; and – most important of all – Mr. DA loses his/her re-election. Game Set Match, the cops.

    What we need is a solution. I propose 2. 1) (least favorite) a special DA just for police cases. I don’t like this idea because when the ‘special’ DA gets corrupted, as he most certainly will, we’re right back to where we started. At snuff films on Balko. Still, it’s a start. 2) Impose the court-imposed procedural perfection necessary for a conviction on the cops themselves. You didn’t read rights/do a proper search/handle evidence properly, Officer Himmler? Even though you were *trained* to do that? Pity. You’re suspended *without pay* for 3 months, and you’re reduced 2 steps in pay/rank. Further instances will directly attack the Holy Grail of copping, their sacred pensions. Am pretty sure *that* will get their attention.

    I’d much prefer they just be scourged and then hanged at high noon in the public square, but I reckon their precious little unions would object. This might be a workable start.

  47. #47 |  Sean | 

    “What was the radio show someone called into to boast?”

    I’m not sure, but if I remember right it was *another* officer who overheard Jay Cicinelli boasting about the beating in the locker room at the Fullerton PD. “Yeah, I really gave it to that scumbag good last night!” … something to that effect.

    It wasn’t one of the murdering officers themselves, but rather that informant. I believe he called the “John and Ken Show” on KFI 640 and that got them rolling covering all of this.

  48. #48 |  Pablo | 

    As I’ve said before, it is vital when interacting with mentally ill persons, or drunk or high people (e.g most people the police have to deal with), to avoid escalating the situation. Non aggressive body language, not speaking louder than necessary, and avoiding profanity or other inflammatory language does a great deal to calm down an agitated and unstable person, with a greater chance they will actually do what you are asking them to do. I would hope that gaining compliance would be the goal of the police in such situations.

    I learned this from years of working in mental hospitals/outpatient programs and I trained other staff in these techniques. It is too bad that most videos of police confrontations I’ve seen show exactly the opposite behaviors. I can’t help but think this is done to deliberately provoke an unstable person.

  49. #49 |  Resistance | 

    RIP in Kelly Thomas. Rot in Hell LEO. You worthless puke.

  50. #50 |  Maria | 

    @48 It is. The problem is that many of these cops don’t want to diffuse a situation. They want to start shit. They want to show you who’s boss. They want the perp (it’s not a person) to snap, or twitch, or sway, or cough, in a threatening manner. They want the rabbit to run. Otherwise they don’t get to unload. And the messed up thing? If you go and read the comments at these police blogs, many of them feel that they deserve to unload.

    Don’t you know that their job is so dangerous? They singly and stoically stand between us and anarchy. Or something. Why can’t you be more sympathetic to their stress? /sarc

    What so many of these bad apples seem to need is to mess someone up. Especially if it’s someone who’s perceived weaker than them. That’s even better! Mentally incompetent, homeless, crazy, drunk, sick, unarmed. All the better because they think that they will win, or worse case they come out with a scraped elbow and a dozen trashed latex gloves.

  51. #51 |  CB | 

    >Nobody ever mentions the fact that Thomas had committed no crimes…

    I avoid the discussion of committing a crime from the standpoint of law. What the cop did would be a moral crime, even if the victim had broken a law and the cop had been protected by a double standard of law where the law didn’t apply to him (which is, in truth, the situation). We live in an “illegal everything” society such that it is impossible to live and not break laws. It does not justify the violent enforcement of law (which is what all law enforcement is, really).

  52. #52 |  CyniCAl | 

    Google Manuel Loggins Orange County Sheriff Deputy Darren Sandberg for another inspiring story of SoCal police street justice. Oh, no investigation to be completed for months and Sandberg is back on active duty.

  53. #53 |  CyniCAl | 

    Let that comment above be directed at #42 Burgers Allday, who thinks he’s on to something with the “isolated incident” meme. Really don’t know what you’re talking about Burgers, you seem to have jumped the shark (another meme!) with this one.

  54. #54 |  Michael Chaney | 

    Re: #51 The fact that he committed no crime is relevant because there is no statutory authority to detain him in the first place. A crime would not have excused there treatment of him but it would have given them reason to detain him.

  55. #55 |  demize! | 

    “Are there psych profile tests available that could weed out people who become cops so they can abuse others?” Yeah the results are the academy roll call.

  56. #56 |  demize! | 

    Im pretty sure @Burgersallday isn’t too sure what hes talking about either, but he’ll use alot of Latin while doing it, and God damn he wants to hear those 45 Zimmerman calls. SMDH..

  57. #57 |  James Sr. | 

    If there was ever substantial evidence of Murder backed up by a video of such. This would be that text book case of a group conspiracy . But, since they are employed by the people, it is not considered murder due to the fact of excessive force is not considered murder by the courts. Judge made defense to murder is what it is, not a fundamental right.

    Clearly established or not !! It’s still murder. And all should be tried as such.

  58. #58 |  Burgers Allday | 

    @52, 53:

    Like I said, the police excessive force cases that make me, errr, agitated, generally involve guns or tasers. I said that right in the post. I also said that generally the cases where the excessive force is what policemen call “hands on” are not too egregious. That doesn’t mean that they should not be punished, or that regcits shouldn’t care about them. It just means that they aren’t cut from the same cloth as the beating of Kelly Thomas.

    One I did not mention, and one where the beating did seem bad was Jordan Miles. But there the beating was so severe because Jordan Miles did not have a good reason to know that the men trying to abduct him were popo. That was probably an actual fight that got Miles beat so bad. As with many excessive force cases the problem there was lack of announcement and identification by police and the lie about the disappearing Mountain Dew bottle. You take those out of the equation and there would have been no Jordan Miles beating.

    This is way different than the Kelly Thomas beating. The Kelly Thomas police beating was just a plain old extra-judicial execution by law enforcement. If the kelly thomas beating is similar to anything, it would be the execution of Osama Bin Laden a couple years ago (with the caveat that we don’t get to see the video of that one).

    I am not excusing the police officers for beating Kelly Thomas. If I were in charge then all six would be standing trial for first degree murder. Still, it ain’t a perfect world, and the fact that even one on-duty, in uniform popo is on trial for murder is a minor miracle.

    I am just as outraged as you. I am not for the death penalty, except in cases where there is clear video evidence of all elements of the crime. In a world made to my liking, this is a rare, rare death penalty case. How’s my outrage now?

    I am not a big fan of law enforcement as it is currently practiced in the US.
    All I am saying is that this case doesn’t have that much to do with the real problems that infect US police forces.

    Does the system work? Not just no, but hell no. Is the system working in this case? So far, kinda, sorta, better than usual.

  59. #59 |  MassHole | 


    “If the kelly thomas beating is similar to anything, it would be the execution of Osama Bin Laden a couple years ago (with the caveat that we don’t get to see the video of that one).”

    As someone above mentioned, you have jumped the shark. The comparison above is so inane that it isn’t worth responding to. In fact, your whole comment at #58 is ridiculous. Why don’t you go do some of that citizen journalism Radley gave you a few tips on a while back and stop polluting the comments here. Your repeated interest in the Zimmerman 911 calls has become a running joke here if you haven’t noticed. That should clue you in that no one takes you seriously.

    “All I am saying is that this case doesn’t have that much to do with the real problems that infect US police forces.”

    Totally right dude! The real problem is the cops standing around watching were veterans!!!!!

  60. #60 |  Burgers Allday | 

    A couple more points about Kelly Thomas. Big picture points.

    It is likely that Thomas’es father was “lowballed” on the early settlement offer because he was not in contact with his son prior to the son’s execution and had a restraining order against the son. That casts a big cloud over the emotional suffering and punitive aspects of any tort case or section 1983 case. Normally, Mr. Balko seems skeptical of large civil damages awards for any and all reasons he can muster. There is a big reason to be skeptical here because of the apparently attenuated nature of the family/son relationship. Kelly’s family probably will get a big reward, but if he had been killed by, say, the negligent driving of a private company’s car, then I suspect Mr. Balko would suddenly understand the problems with Mr. Thomas’es tort claims. And these problems would still exist, and be just as serious from a purely legal perspective, even if Thomas had called out for his dad after hypothetically being run over by that hypothetical company car.

    Second point:

    In the 1970s, Governor Reagan emptied out California’s state run mental hospitals. This was a popular move. He ended up getting elected US president twice! It was also considered as a libertarian move, a smaller government type of thing to do. I can see why the move was perceived that way. Those hospitals cost money. Taxpayer money. It also deprive citizens of their liberty. Mentally ill citizens. It was terrible for California (my favorite place on Earth). It is move that we continue to feel the effects today. For example, I now prefer Portland to SF — even though the crazies there carry knives openly on the bus — at least there are fewer of them.

    More to the point, we still see the effects of this Great Libertarian Blunder in the Kelly Thomas case. I have no doubt that his family wanted a loving relationship with him. With a state run mental hospital that could have happened. It is what should have happened. But it didn’t happen. And it caused the Thomas family a lot of suffering, I am absolutely sure, both prior to, and on the day he was beaten to death. So, time for self reflection, and perhaps also time to ease off the nitpicking of how the state is handling the criminal prosecutions.

  61. #61 |  Burgers Allday | 


    I jumped the shark a long, long time ago.

    But, on the bright side, I am practically swimming in Pepsi Throwback these days.

    And everybody loves my new record album:


  62. #62 |  Tales From Your Police State: Animals With Badges « Scott Rhymer | 

    […] Balko over at The Agitator says it best: “But these are the people we entrust with the exclusive power to use coercive […]

  63. #63 |  CyniCAl | 

    Kelly Thomas was tazed. Five times. Four times directly to his body with 5 second bursts, once with the darts. And then the officer proceeded to simply beat Thomas in the face with the taser. So, again Burgers, why the distinctions here?

  64. #64 |  Burgers Allday | 


    I am saying that this is not typical of police brutality cases.

    I am saying it is an outlier.

    I am saying it is, by its nature, purposefulness, lack of provocation and severity of damage something fundamentally different than other police brutality cases.

    This is why I say it is an “isolated incident,” unlike all the other “isolated incidents” that really are not isolated and are part of a larger pattern as we know from Mr. Balko’s writing on the matter.

    Why would you have such problems with my thinking that, even if you did not agree? Certainly you can at least undersatnd why I see this particular case in the way I do even if you do not agree.

    Perhaps the most important part of being a police critic is being a FAIR critic. This just doesn’t look or feel like other police brutality cases, and that was true right from the start even before there was video.

  65. #65 |  CyniCAl | 

    OK, I see what you’re saying — the Thomas case is exceptional in its brutality. However, this is just an opinion. I and others see no real difference between this case and the myriad others occurring just about every day somewhere in the US. We can agree to disagree, happens all the time here.

    As for being a fair critic, I’ll leave that to you. I see no value in being fair with cops when reciprocity isn’t in their vocabulary.

  66. #66 |  Maria | 

    @62 “by its nature, purposefulness, lack of provocation and severity of damage something fundamentally different than other police brutality cases.”

    I actually get the feeling that this is one of the larger recent nails in the coffin of our American civil experiment. Even though it’s gotten a decent level of media exposure and roundly condemned by most people who hear about it or see the video. By that I mean, it could very well shift the acceptance and expectation of such brutality amongst officers into high gear.

    I fear that while now it’s an outlier in many ways, it’s going to quickly become the norm as the next few years progress.

  67. #67 |  Bill | 

    You just watched a live cold blooded murder. Believe or not believe, pray for this country.

  68. #68 |  Personanongrata | 

    “I just start smashing his face to hell.”

    There is no reform for a system of policing that commits such blatant acts of depraved indifference against the folks the police claim to be “protecting”.

  69. #69 |  Nick T. | 

    This is like a case where a man kills his whole family after leading a seemingly normal life. You realize that he must have been sick the whole time, but he controlled or restrained it. Only when he had a nice insurance policy, or a mistress to run away with etc. did he simply make a calculation to do soemthing so completely subhuman.
    And of course he was convinced he would get away with it. That’s a critical piece.
    These police are the same. They were completely sick the whoel time, and yet we entrusted them with power and violence and then we set up our society and our laws telling them they could get away with virtually anything, until the reward/motivaton threshold became so low that simply disliking a mentally sick man, and/or having a bad day was reason enough to unleash this thing lurking inside.
    Sadly this type of person is not uncommon. And so the threat/chance of punishment is a very important issue, at which our society gets a big red ‘F’

  70. #70 |  marie | 

    Outlier? Isolated incident?

    Not so much. This happened in Omaha.

  71. #71 |  Cornellian | 

    “I am saying that this is not typical of police brutality cases.

    I am saying it is an outlier.”

    If that were true, why wouldn’t any of the other cops intervene, or object, or speak out in any way? If it’s because there’s a culture of tolerating this sort of behavior, that means it isn’t an outlier.

  72. #72 |  GT | 

    Yes, it’s all very sad – but entirely predictable. Power attracts the worst psychotypes, and anyone who wants to try to convince themselves otherwise is fucking retarded. (Those calling for testing: three genes… MAOA-L , double COMT-Met, and whatever is the opposite of GG in oxytocin receptors. Put another way: low MAOA-L, COMT val/val and Oxytocin receptor GG and you’re more likely to be Salman Khan or James Altucher).

    So… what do? As they say on 4chan.

    Simple: kill the people involved, using private-sector mechanisms. If you rely on ‘the system’ to resolve issues like this, you will be sorely disappointed – because the system is NOT THERE TO HELP YOU, you fucking idiots. It never has been, was not designed to be, and has no intention of ever being, an actual aid to the betterment of society.

    Both ‘law enforcement’ and the ‘justice’ system – the State’s set-piece theatrics in which 70 year old white men in 16th century costumes parse the collected opinion of tax-parasites (politicians) – have been revealed to serve a purpose that is dramatically different from the purpose we are told they serve.

    That revelation has only happened as a result of massive reductions in the cost of disseminating information; the same shit has gone on for EVER.

    In some sense the rapid increase in awareness (for those interested – which most people are not) is similar to the mechanism by which a good slice of the ‘interested’ population got a “What.the.fuck.” moment post-Gutenberg, when the Bible was translated out of Latin and into the vernacular. People read that shit without a State/Church filter/firewall, and thought “You’re fucking kidding, right?”. (The State and Church then reacted typically: it started killing people for doing such translations – e.g., Wycliff and Tyndall. And in France in 1535, owning an unauthorised printing press was punishable by death).

    The printing press accelerated the end of Crown-and-Church control over information, and led to an acceleration of the Enlightenment and the spread of the thoughts of, e.g., Paine, de la Boetié, Molinari, Proudhon, Diderot, d’Holbach and so forth (yes, I deliberately advanced Paine in the chronology, for verily he is badass and boss).

    The internet is doing the same thing, only faster and with better graphics (woodcuts of Church henchman brutality were spread by pamphleteers in the 1500s though… but hardly in real time!).

    And it will end the same way: a 21st century version of the tumbrils.

    Men will – and must – die horribly for their roles in the rise of tyranny; otherwise the entire economic system will be left in ruins (it might well be anyway), because ALL of this shit is becoming more and more systematic, as the share of [Taxes plus NPSBR} in GDP rises inexorably (as it should be expected to when the political means are captured by the most highly-functioning of the sociopaths).

    So: economic theory tells you how this ends – bloodshed. The only remaining ‘swing variable is whether the bloodshed is
    * small-scale, private-sector and localised (à la Jim Bell’s “Assassination Politics”) or
    * large-scale, tax-funded and generalised (à la Pol Pot or any NATO operation: bombing of public infrastructure, artillery into schools and hospitals, white phosphorus burning children to the bone).

    This sounds alarmist – but this is where we are, folks.

    Mencken said it best: there is a time when a man must dust off his hands, hoist the black flag, and start slitting throats”.

    If these motherfuckers start to die in their homes as a result of ‘dynamic entries’ by people paid to fuck them up… the behaviour of their colleagues WILL change.

    So kill a half dozen of these cunts and be done with it. And upload the videos to Vimeo, because YouTube will pull them. /snark

  73. #73 |  Romney the Bully » Right Thinking | 

    […] want to talk about bullying? Video was just released showing the brutal and fatal police beating of Kelly Thomas. Have you seen this video on the national news? Has it gotten a hundredth of the coverage that […]

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