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Medical files detail homeless Fullerton man's fatal injuries

Kelly Thomas' father hopes publicizing the extent of the injuries he suffered after a confrontation with Fullerton police in July may help speed up investigations in the case.

September 08, 2011|By Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times
  • Attorney Garo Mardirossian, center, and Ron Thomas, father of Kelly Thomas, hold a news conference Wednesday on the release of Kelly Thomas' medical records.
Attorney Garo Mardirossian, center, and Ron Thomas, father of Kelly Thomas,… (Irfan Khan, Los Angeles…)

A homeless man suffered brain injuries, a shattered nose, a smashed cheekbone, broken ribs and severe internal bleeding during a violent altercation with Fullerton police, according to medical records released Wednesday.

The family of Kelly Thomas provided the medical records from UC Irvine Medical Center, where the mentally ill homeless man died five days after the violent clash at the Fullerton bus depot.

The records show the immediate cause of death was "brain death" due to "head trauma" from the incident.

No alcohol, narcotics or prescription medications were found in Thomas' system, according to records released by Thomas family attorney Garo Mardirossian.

The findings raise new questions about the level of violence used by six police officers during the July 5 confrontation with Thomas in a case that has roiled Orange County politics.

Police have said they were simply trying to subdue Thomas.

Medical records show that in addition to numerous injuries, Thomas, 37, was also Tasered "multiple" times, including in the left chest near the heart.

Thomas died after five days in the hospital when he was taken off life support after being declared brain dead.

His father, Ron Thomas, said he decided to release the medical records in hopes it would help push forward the various investigations into the case.

"This is also the right timing for the D.A.'s and coroner's office to step forward and let us know what they have. This isn't just a beating. It's an aggravated murder," he said.

The Orange County coroner's office, however, has not completed its report or provided an official cause of death, said Jim Amormino, the department's spokesman. Toxicology and other tests by the coroner's office are still pending.

The Orange County district attorney's office has said that determination of a cause of death is vital to its probe.

Prosecutors are interviewing witnesses and reviewing a security camera video of the incident involving Thomas, who suffered from schizophrenia.

Several bystanders witnessed the incident, and Thomas can be heard on another video crying out for his father as an officer repeatedly shocks him with the Taser.

The FBI and a police watchdog hired by the city are also conducting separate investigations. The city has refused to release the names of the officers who are being investigated.

An attorney for the officers said Thomas violently struggled with them, and they used reasonable force to subdue him..

Residents have organized a recall election targeting three council members who they say have been unresponsive to concerns regarding the incident.

In the wake of the uproar, Fullerton's police chief stepped down, and City Council meetings have been mobbed by noisy protesters.

richard.winton@latimes.com

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